Jerusalem: The Israeli government approved USD 18 million in extra funding for Jewish West Bank settlements on Sunday, in a move that angered both opposition lawmakers and Palestinians.
A statement from Netanyahu's office the funding aims to assist small businesses, encourage tourism and strengthen security. It follows months of Palestinian attacks on civilians and soldiers.
Some 600,000 Jews live in settlements built on the West Bank and in east Jerusalem on lands Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. Most of the world considers them to be illegal. Israel has faced strong criticism for their continued expansion. The Palestinians demand the territory as part of their future state.
Opposition lawmakers attacked the decision, saying that instead of boosting Israel's struggling periphery the government was pouring money into an enterprise that undermined Israel's security and international standing. US State Department spokesman John Kirby reaffirmed Washington's opposition to settlement building.
"Our position on settlement activity remains clear and consistent. We strongly oppose all settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace," Kirby said. "We continue to look to both sides to demonstrate with actions and policies a genuine commitment to a two-state solution. Actions such as these do just the opposite.?"
Later today, the Palestinian Health Ministry said a 22-year-old man died of wounds sustained in clashes with the Israeli military in the West Bank in May. Over the last nine months, Palestinians have carried out dozens of attacks, including stabbings, shootings and car ramming assaults, which have killed 32 Israelis and two Americans.
About 200 Palestinians have been killed during that time, most identified as attackers by Israel. The rest died in clashes.
The assaults were once near-daily incidents but they have become less frequent in recent weeks.