Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Missions Minister Orit Strock are spearheading a 670 million shekel ($180 million) initiative with the stated goal of strengthening “civilian resilience” in Jewish communities across Judea and Samaria, local media reported on Wednesday.
The “unprecedented” addition to the 2023-2024 budget, parts of which were already agreed upon in the coalition agreement with Smotrich’s the Religious Zionism Party, will be formally discussed at the weekly Cabinet meeting in Jerusalem this coming Sunday, according to the reports.
The proposal’s official objective is to assist communities living under the threat of Arab terrorism, said the Hebrew-language Calcalist newspaper. Accordingly, 46.5 million shekels ($12.4 million) will be invested in building “resilience centers” and social programs.
Smotrich and Strock are reportedly also seeking to encourage demographic growth in more remote parts of Judea and Samaria by earmarking over 100 million shekels ($26.7 million) for northern Samaria, the Hebron Hills, Kiryat Arba and the areas around the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley.
More than 200 million shekels ($50 million) will be used to upgrade outdated infrastructure, schools and public buildings, including in “unregulated” outposts, while a budget of 184 million shekels ($49.1 million) is set aside to boost the security of Jewish communities under threat.
The proposal furthermore contains a 45 million shekel ($12 million) budget to establish a sizeable medical center in the Sha’ar Binyamin industrial park. Among other medical services, the complex will include an emergency room and imaging institute, as well as departments for pediatric medicine, women’s health, dialysis and other specialist medicine services.
Some one million shekels ($265,460) will go toward a strategy to turn the Samaria city of Ariel into a student hub. Meanwhile, the Aliyah and Integration Ministry will allocate 12 million shekels ($3.2 million) with an eye towards informing potential immigrants of the possibility of settling beyond the 1949 armistice line.
Some parts of the plan are still being worked out, Calcalist noted.
For example, in the areas around Kedumim, Beit El, Alon Shvut, Ma’ale Adumim and Kiryat Arba, Smotrich and Strock suggest turning IDF military bases into residential and industrial parks, as has been done in the center of the country under the auspices of the Shoham 3 agreement.
Moreover, a yet-to-be-determined amount will be invested in securing Jewish shepherds in Judea and Samaria. Earlier this month, Israeli Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter applauded farmers’ role in protecting state lands in the region.
Approximately 220 million shekels ($58.4 million) of the plan’s total budget will come directly from Strock’s National Missions Ministry. The remainder will be financed by other ministries, primarily the finance, interior and defense ministries.
The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria has surpassed half a million people, according to a report published earlier this year. There were 502,991 Jews living in Judea and Samaria as of Jan. 1, according to the document, which culled data from Israel’s Interior Ministry.
The 500,000-plus Jews living beyond the 1967 Green Line account for 12% of all Jews in Israel. The report projected the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria to exceed 600,000 by 2030, 700,000 by 2035 and one million by 2047.
In February, Smotrich vowed to promote unrestrained construction in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, and has announced plans to advance the construction of an additional 10,000 homes in Judea and Samaria.
Smotrich, who also holds the post of minister in the Defense Ministry, has been tasked by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with overseeing the Civil Administration, the Defense Ministry body responsible for approving construction and handling other bureaucratic matters in Area C of Judea and Samaria.