After loud protests Sunday from groups promoting Jewish settlement in Yehudah and Shomron, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting that a proposed NIS 116 billion ($33 billion) infrastructure program would be expanded to include a wide-ranging plan to build roads in Yehudah and Shomron. The protests came after reports said that only 5 percent of the budget would be allocated to Yehudah and Shomron.
Netanyahu was inundated Sunday with letters, messages and phone calls from ministers, MKs and community officials and activists complaining about the small amount to be allocated to residents of Yehudah and Shomron. MKs Yoav Kisch and Betzalel Smotrich, the heads of the Land of Israel lobby in the Knesset, wrote to Netanyahu that the amount “is unsuitable and does not begin to cover the number of people that would be affected, and is not sufficient to improve the infrastructure in Yehudah and Shomron, which is among the oldest and least-invested in the country.”
“A government that prides itself on developing settlement would certainly want to do more,” the letter said.
In his own missive, Shomron Council Head Yossi Dagan wrote that “the plan to improve infrastructure in Israel is a good one, but it is likely to turn residents of Yehudah and Shomron into fourth-class citizens. We cannot accept a situation like this. The amount offered is a drop in the bucket compared to our needs.” MK Shuli Muallem-Refaeli said in a radio interview that “there are half a million Jews living in Yehudah and Shomron, and many of them are stuck in traffic jams daily. Many of the roads are not safe. This is supposed to be a right-wing government and I call on ministers to include in the plan the area where hundreds of thousands of Jews live.”
Under the plan, Israel will invest NIS 116 billion in infrastructure projects through 2021. The money will be spent on 147 projects, many of them involving road and highway creation and upgrades, along with public transportation and energy projects. The plan will now be adjusted to take into account funding for a wide-ranging plan to build new bypass roads and highways in Yehudah and Shomron, providing money for roads that had been approved, in some cases, decades ago, but for which funding was never provided.