ariel culture
The Performing Arts Center in Ariel, where some Israeli artists refuse to perform. Photo by Alon Ron
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Emil Salman
The Ramat Zayit neighborhood of Efrat. Photo by Emil Salman
Ariel Yeruzolimesk
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz speaks to reporters before a cabinet meeting in March, 2012. Photo by Ariel Yeruzolimesk

Benjamin Netanyahu's government has quietly doubled the portion of Israel's national budget allocated to Jewish settlements in the West Bank settlements, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said in an interview on Monday.

"During the current government's term, we doubled the budgets [allocated] to Judea and Samaria. We did it with a low profile, in agreement with the mayors," Steinitz told Galei Yisrael, a regional radio station based in the West Bank.

The government carried out the moves quietly, so that "elements in Israel and abroad" would not attempt to stymie them, he added.

Steinitz, who on Monday afternoon received an award from the settlement movement honoring him for his contributions, related to interviewer Kaveh Shafran how he had helped the settlements.

“We are funding three cultural centers in Judea and Samaria – in Ariel, Ma’aleh Adumim and Kiryat Arba. We’ve helped the Jordan Valley. We’ve helped the Jewish community in Hebron. Because of my decision to give a special allocation to establish the university in Ariel, despite enormous pressure from the [other] universities against it, the way was paved to getting the Council of Higher Education’s approval.”

Steinitz also discussed the recent wave of rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip, saying that the cross-border escalation was part of a comprehensive Palestinian move against Israel. “Strategically, what’s happening is that we’re under a double Palestinian offensive. A terror offensive from Gaza, and from Ramallah a diplomatic offensive by Abu Mazen, which is also strategic, to approach the UN."

Steinitz added that “the Palestinian Authority as it is today, with Abu Mazen’s behavior, and as we see the results of what’s happening in Gaza, is an entity that must be pressured, even at the risk of it collapsing and disappearing. We cannot turn the other cheek to a diplomatic offensive from Ramallah and a military [one] from Gaza. It’s true that these are two rival factions, but the diplomatic offensive is no less dangerous in my eyes than the offensive in Gaza.”