Ma'ale Adumim - AP - 13.3.2011
A Palestinian working at a construction site in the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, near Jerusalem, March, 13, 2011. Photo by AP
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Tomer Appelbaum
Yuval Steinitz Photo by Tomer Appelbaum

Israel's Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview with religious daily Makor Rishon that during his term, assistance to settlement in the West Bank and in the Golan rose significantly.

Steinitz said that the assistance came because of his deep feeling "that in recent years settlements were discriminated against due to considerations stemming from international pressure and the fact that certain organizations were not investing in settlements in the territories out of fear that such a step would damage their fund-raising ability."

In a special interview to be published Friday by the newspaper, Steinitz said that the Israeli public does not appreciate enough the fact that it has jobs, while the U.S. and some European country are plagued by unemployment. "During the crisis, the middle class's living standards rose and poverty went down," he said. "But the media is distorting what is happening in reality."

Steinitz said that "we had to compensate the settlements for the damage done by the (construction) freeze and the slower pace of building – I am very proud of this." He added that he also "had the privilege to contribute much to the Ariel cultural center which was stuck for years because of budgetary problems, and to the Kiryat Arba cultural center." According to Steinitz, the ministry is now assisting the construction of a cultural center in Ma'aleh Adumin.

When asked about the evacuation of a house in Hebron earlier on Wednesday, Steinitz said that he supports these who settle the land of Israel and criticized the security establishment. "If Jews bought a house legally and with their own money, it is unclear why the security establishment is calling this a provocation," he said, adding that "any honest person should appreciate the courage and personal sacrifice of Jews who are making a brave Zionist move buying apartments and houses and settling in the heart of East Jerusalem and the Old City. This is very important in order to prevent the division of the city."

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