Middle East Monitor / August 21, 2023
The Israeli government, yesterday, allocated a sum of 3.2 billion Israeli shekels ($843 million) as part of a five-year plan to impose greater control over Occupied East Jerusalem, reported Anadolu Agency.
The plan, for the years 2024-2028, will address areas such as economic development, public transportation projects, energy and electricity, sewage, sustainability, culture, local initiatives and education, claimed the Prime Minister’s Office.
The funding, according to Anadolu Agency, will increase the number of students attaining a high school diploma.
The educational system in East Jerusalem employs the Palestinian curriculum known as tawjihi; however, Israel aims to introduce the Israeli curriculum to students.
In a statement following yesterday’s cabinet meeting, Netanyahu said, “We brought a decision in favour of the residents of East Jerusalem. A decision that will change the face of the city of Jerusalem, that will bring about a massive development of infrastructure, health, welfare, personal security, employment and an increase in the number of people entitled to [high school] matriculation certificates.”
He added, “We are building Jerusalem, strengthening the governance and uniting Jerusalem.”
It comes after the Israeli Knesset Plenary Assembly recently approved, in preliminary reading, two bills aimed at increasing oversight of schools and teachers in Israel, including East Jerusalem.
Moreover, Israeli Finance Minister, Bezalel Smotrich, added that the plan will reinforce Israeli sovereignty over East Jerusalem, saying that “a united Jerusalem is not just a slogan, it is a responsibility. A responsibility to every resident, a responsibility for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem as our eternal capital.”
Meanwhile, Smotrich, a key member of Netanyahu’s nationalist-religious government, suspended payment of at least 200 million shekels ($52.75 million) of Palestinian municipal funds, saying that these could end up in the hands of what he called “criminal and terrorist elements”.
Despite a pledge by Netanyahu on August 9 to release the funds, Smotrich doubled down on his decision, vowing today not to “keep turning a blind eye when hundreds of millions of everyone’s tax funds were going to criminal groups.” The ultra-nationalist Smotrich’s move drew accusations of racism from Palestinian and Jewish lawmakers, including opposition leader, Yair Lapid, as well as Palestinian mayors.
Palestinian citizens, most of whom are descendants of Palestinians who were able to resist the ethnic cleansing that enabled the founding of the occupation state of Israel in 1948, make up about a fifth of Israel’s population. They have, for decades, faced disparities compared with Jewish citizens, including high poverty rates, overcrowded towns lacking in infrastructure and poorly funded schools, which they say are a result of deliberate government policies.