Israel Should Accept U.S. Aid Package Now, Finance Minister Says

Responding to criticism of funds for settlements, Kahlon says the treasury is 'color-blind' and will continue allocating resources irrespective of 'religion, race, gender and nationality.'

Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis
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Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, March 30, 2016.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon, March 30, 2016.Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Jonathan Lis
Jonathan Lis

Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon on Tuesday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to accept the aid package from the United States in its current form.

Israel and the U.S. are currently negotiating a framework agreement for military aid to Israel over the next decade. The agreement has not been finalized, reportedly because Netanyahu is playing for time, possibly in the hope of getting a better deal from Obama's successor.

"I know the figures," Kahlon said during a meeting of the Kulanu Party's Knesset caucus on Monday. "The agreement is positive. There is always something that can be improved, but the defense apparatus can definitely make do with the current proposal."

"There's no reason for us to take steps that will be interpreted as intervention in the internal affairs of the U.S.," Kahlon added.

Kahlon also referred to the government's controversial decision on Sunday to transfer a 72 million shekels ($18.6 million) budgetary supplement to West Bank settlements, due to their "unique security situation."

Implicitly defending the move, Kahlon said the government was working address the needs of all the communities in Israel, ranging from settlers to Israeli Arabs, irrespective of race or political affiliation.

"Over the past year, we have transferred billions of shekels to soldiers, the aged, Holocaust survivors and to needy populations that require assistance. We will not hesitate to make less popular decisions, too.

"In the next budget we will continue allocating resources to all parts of the population, without reference to religion, race, gender or nationality."

"As you know, the government (also) approved the transfer of funds to Haredi and Arab communities," Kahlon said. "In the days preceding the decision we heard repeated attacks [pitting] sector versus sector. Secular and Haredi, Jews and Arabs, residents of Judea and Samaria against residents from across the Green Line.

"What concerned the attackers most was the budgets for Judea and Samaria for security purposes. Judea and Samaria suffers at least as much as the rest of Israel from terror attacks. There are hundreds of thousands of people living there who pay taxes, serve in the army, join the reserves – and in our eyes they are equal citizens."

The treasury is color-blind, the minister added. "For us, Jews, Arabs, Bedouin and settlers are all equal citizens. There is no distinction between settlement, the Arab sector, the Bedouin and the Druze.

On Sunday, the Israeli cabinet voted to establish an entity to supervise planning and construction in the Arab sector, conditioning funding to Arab towns on demolition of illegal structures. Outraged, representatives of those locales vowed not to cooperate with efforts to make them part of the enforcement mechanism against illegal construction.

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