In the spirit of the Passover holiday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has decided to grant gifts instead of fighting budget battles. For example, the cabinet will vote today on approving to bring in more foreign workers for agriculture. This completely contradicts the government's stated goal of fighting poverty, which is based in part on reducing the number of foreign workers.
According to the agreement between Olmert and Agriculture Minister Shalom Simhon, an additional 2,500 foreigners will be allowed to work in the country, with only 700 to be sent to the periphery. The rest will be sent all over the country, including the center, where there is no labor shortage for such positions.
Olmert also gave in on the funding for Gush Katif evacuees, who will receive significantly larger compensation. The changes will include payments to those who rented homes in Gaza but did not own their own houses, as well as NIS 100,000-200,000 for moving from temporary to permanent housing.
The additional budget needed for these payments is estimated at NIS 640 million, mostly from the 2008 budget. The total cost for the civilian part of the disengagement will now reach NIS 7 billion.
The cabinet will also vote this morning on the transfer of a number of IDF bases to the Negev, including the construction of a huge training base complex. The cost of all the moves, including moving the Air Force base from Lod, will be NIS 3 billion. The project will take until 2013 and is part of the overall NIS 17 billion plan for developing the Negev over the next 10 years.
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