Israel offers incentives to expand Jewish settlements
Palestinians react with anger
December 13, 1996
Web posted at: 8:30 p.m. EST (0130 GMT)
From Correspondent Walter Rodgers
JERUSALEM (CNN) -- Ever since the slayings Wednesday of a
Jewish woman and her 12-year-old son by a radical Palestinian
faction, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been
defiant about expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip, much to the chagrin of most Palestinians.
On Friday, Netanyahu's Cabinet decided to give tax breaks and
generous grants to the settlements. The decision -- made at a
time when Israel's relations with the Palestinians are tense -- means Israel could pump hundreds of millions of dollars into the areas.
Among the incentives are grants for Jewish students and
government-built day care centers.
The Cabinet move came despite Palestinian warnings that
increased Jewish settlement of the area will lead to more
violence. Relations between the Palestinian Authority and
Israeli government are already under serious strains.
Reaction from Palestinians to the Cabinet's decision came
quickly and with anger. Dr. Ahmed Tibi, an adviser to
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat, said the
settlements are illegal and that the announcement would put
the peace process in jeopardy.
Talks over an Israeli troop pullout in the West Bank town of
Hebron are deadlocked. Palestinians are angry over Israeli
plans to build 132 Jewish homes in an Arab neighborhood in
Jerusalem. And Israel is demanding that Palestinian police
do more to catch gunmen who killed the Jewish West Bank
settler and her young son in Wednesday's drive-by shooting.
All those issues notwithstanding, Israel should not be
discouraged from settling the West Bank, said David
Bar-Illan, Netanyahu's senior adviser.
"It is unthinkable that Jews should not be allowed to live
anywhere in the world, and certainly not in the area that is
the cradle of our civilization, of our religion, of our
culture," he said.
Peace process in trouble?
There are 144 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza
Strip and, under the Cabinet plan, all of them will become
more financially attractive for Israelis. Settlers will pay
less income tax, and business people will receive grants
equal to at least 20 percent of their investments.
According to some estimates, the package could cost hundreds
of millions of dollars. Israeli radio said Cabinet ministers
argued over where the money should come from, but decided to
rule on that issue later.
The West Bank of the Jordan River is where Palestinians had
hoped to develop a state of their own under the Oslo peace
process negotiated during Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin's
tenure. And now?
"The peace process doesn't seem to be in such good shape
anyway. It's teetering on the brink of collapse, even before
today's decision. This will bring it one step closer to
final collapse," said Israeli political analyst Chemi Shalev.
In Gaza, Arafat was furious with Netanyahu's bid to move more
settlers to the West Bank. "This is another serious
escalation, and breaching what had been agreed upon according
to the agreement -- not one single house to be added to any
settlement," he said.
Palestinian radicals vow retaliation
Wednesday night's shooting may have been responsible for the
timing of the Israeli action. But Palestinians say the
Israeli reaction is unreasonable and unbalanced.
"If they believe it is a kind of punishment for the
Palestinians, to build more settlements because an Israeli
was killed, what can we do to punish those because of all the
Palestinians who are killed?", one Palestinian said.
In this land of "an eye for an eye," militant Muslim groups
like Hamas have one answer. The military branch of the
Hamas, Izzedine al Qassam, distributed a leaflet Friday
saying the group would carry out new attacks to mark the
anniversary of the death of chief bomb maker Yehia Ayash.
Hamas was responsible for four suicide bombings in February
and March which killed 63 people.
On Friday in the Gaza Strip town of Khan Yunis, 25,000
supporters of the Muslim militant group rallied, chanting
"Qassam, Qassam," the name of the Hamas military wing
involved in previous suicide bombings.
And another group, the Damascus-based Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine, urged Palestinians to launch a fresh
uprising against the Jewish state. The PFLP has claimed
responsibility for Wednesday's killings, and a number of
other attacks against Israelis in Israel and south Lebanon in
"We pledge to our martyrs that we will continue our
operations and military struggle against Israel until we
succeed in establishing an independent Palestinian state with
Jerusalem as its capital," the group's leader, George Habash,
Some 145,000 Israeli settlers live in the West Bank and Gaza,
compared to 2 million Palestinian residents.
Related sites: Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1996 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.