- In a slap at international peace efforts, Israel is offering
generous financial incentives to lure young couples to the occupied territories.
- Couples who sign up to move to Givat Ze'ev during the
next four months will receive a grant of £7,100 and a loan for the
same amount. Couples moving to other settlements will receive similar largesse.
- The incentives were announced by the housing minister,
Efraim Eitam, the day before the US Middle East envoy William Burns meets
Israeli officials, ostensibly to work on the road map, a peace blueprint
that calls for the creation of a viable Palestinian state alongside a secure
- Givat Ze'ev leaders predicted the new incentives would
help bring Israelis to 1,300 housing units planned for the settlement.
- One expansion site is a hilltop several kilometres from
the main settlement, making it another settlement in all but name.
- Givat Ze'ev has palm-lined streets and spacious houses.
It looks more like a suburb of Jerusalem, six kilometres to the south,
than an outpost of zealots.
- Yet it is a front line of Israel's effort to seize as
much of the West Bank as possible. It drives a wedge between Arab localities
and the West Bank city of Ramallah.
- Itzik Agmon, secretary of the Givat Ze'ev Council, said
the plan would attract young couples who would otherwise move to Tel Aviv.
- "People will build here because they are saving
50,000 shekels. It will give them money to pay the petrol to Tel Aviv",
a 35-minute drive away.
- He said the new plan would also help contractors. "You
start to build when there is demand, and with [more] government subsidy
there will be demand," he said.
- Mr Eitam said of Arab building near Jerusalem: "It
is spreading out on almost every open area, including state lands. If the
state of Israel does not build there, others will build there illegally."
However Palestinians rarely receive permits to build legally.
- Israel has for years used financial incentives to boost
the Jewish population in the West Bank, now more than 200,000, or about
10 per cent of the Palestinian population.
- But these incentives have come when the road map calls
on Israel to put the brakes on settlement building.
- Israel's Peace Now group says the government has removed
eight outposts, but started eight others.
- Dror Etkes of Peace Now said: "The idea is to concentrate
Palestinian construction in 40 per cent of the West Bank and eliminate
the possibility for Palestinian building in the rest, which in practice
is reserved for Jews only. Of course this means the destruction of the
idea of a viable Palestinian state."
- ©2003 scotsman.com