The National Priority Map /Realpolitik Replaces Geography

With just a little more pressure Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will end up adding Herzliya and Ra'anana to the national priority map. As the area deemed to be of national priority already includes 2 million people - 27 percent of the population - one must wonder who won't be on the list.

The main purpose of the national priority designation is to solve the problem of unemployment in poorer communities in the periphery, in the heights of the Galilee and the depths of the Negev. Job opportunities in these locales are fewer, and there's no replacing a shuttered factory.

These areas lack financial firms, media giants and major commercial centers. So anyone seeking to help the population centers outside the large cities needs to give those areas a real edge over the large cities of central Israel to make it worthwhile for business owners to relocate.

Incentives are justified in such cases, because building a plant in the Negev or Galilee costs more. There are problem that result from being far from the center, there are added transportation expenses and it is hard to find suitable employees.

So the only test that should determine the national priority map is that of distance from the center: Only towns that are far away from the center should receive encouragement for job-creating investments.

But Netanyahu has replaced the geographical test with a cold, cynical political test. Those with access, with leverage, with many voters from the right party make it onto the national priority map, and the hell with jobs in peripheral communities with rampant unemployment.

Netanyahu is known to be incapable of withstanding pressure, and indeed, he keeps expanding the map. Maybe he will throw in Ashkelon, Afula and Ma'ale Adumim too.

So far he put in 140,000 settlers who account for 50 percent of all the Jewish inhabitants of the West Bank, even though the area fails the geographic test: Ariel and Ma'aleh Adumim are a 30-minute drive from the center. But they pass the political test.

The pat on the settlers' back and the capitulation to narrow political interests are grave socioeconomic errors. They deal a serious blow to the people who live far from the center. These errors will prevent them from finding work and moving ahead, thus increasing the gap between the center and the periphery.

Netanyahu clearly grasps this. But anyone who wants to be kind to everyone and doesn't want to say no to anybody close to him, will end up being cruel to those who need support the most.