Israel on Sunday approved a five-year plan to invest 3.2 billion shekels ($840 million) in eastern Jerusalem, covering a wide range of initiatives that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said will “change the face of the city of Jerusalem.” The socio-economic gap reduction and economic development plan announced in an Israeli press release includes funding for economic and cultural development, education, health, infrastructure, security and more for the side of the city known for its Arab influence and claimed by the Palestinians.
“Our Government attends to the needs of all citizens and residents of Israel and it is strengthening our policy to benefit a united and strong Jerusalem, under Israeli sovereignty,” Netanyahu was quoted in the press release as saying, calling the decision “very important.”
Said the Israeli leader, “We are building Jerusalem. We are strengthening governance in Jerusalem, we are uniting Jerusalem.”
Jerusalem Affairs and Jewish Tradition Minister Meir Porush noted in the press release the 3.2 billion shekel investment sum is “unprecedented”. He said they worked to learn lessons from the prior five year plan and to provide a “more efficient” decision that increases investment in the eastern side of the capital city by 50%. Netanyahu, in his comments, thanked the “long list of ministers” who shifted funding from their respective budgets toward this initiative.
Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, in comments translated from Hebrew in the press release, said, “As one who believes in strengthening the sovereignty of all of Jerusalem, I attribute great importance to the five-year plan… United Jerusalem is not some slogan. It is responsibility for every resident and for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem, our eternal capital.”
The eastern section of Jerusalem includes the Old City, the City of David, the Mount of Olives and other Jewish Biblical sites and was reunited with the rest of Jerusalem after Israel took it back from the Jordanians in 1967. Despite Israel’s longstanding historical and symbolic connection to this side of the city, the Jewish State has had to fend off repeated claims by the Palestinians, who want it for the capital of a Palestinian state.
Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion, in comments also translated from Hebrew, said, “The decision that was made today is a sovereign decision. We here today are proving that eastern Jerusalem is an inseparable part of Jerusalem.
“This five-year plan delivers an important message to the residents of the eastern part of the city who, in recent years, have experienced a genuine turnaround in all aspects of life, but mainly in education. I thank the Prime Minister and my friends, the ministers, for the assistance and the readiness, and wish success to us all.”
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, August 20, 2023)