Monday, December 14, 2009

Israel Maps Its Future

Israel's government has approved a new "National Priorities Map" (sadly, I do not believe there is an actual map to this plan) which lists Israel's funding and development priorities.  The map shows what Israel believes is need of critical improvement for the successful continuation of the state.  Two of the three main priorities are uncontroversial while the third one is dominating debate both in Israel and the rest of the world.

First, Israel will expand development efforts in Galilee in the northeast and the Negev Desert in the south.  These areas are furthest away from the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem core and overhead costs are highest.  The government seeks to shift from a core-periphery state of economic affairs to having multiple cores of economic strength.

The second priority effort is development in Israel's Arab community.  Twenty percent of Israel is Arab and 800,000 of these (seventy percent of all Israeli Arabs) are given "preferential treatment" for development aid in the map.  The idea is that by granting Arabs economic development aid their increased condition will allow them to better integrate into Israel.  Observers have been long since been worrying about the increase in the size of Israeli Arabs by natural population growth.  While demographic growth rates prevent Israeli Arabs from matching the size of Israeli Jews, a non-integrated, angry population could prove to be a fifth column against a majority Jewish state.  Therefore, the betterment, appeasement, and friendly relations between the Jewish and Arab communities inside Israel proper are critical for Israel's survival. 
The last major priority is the most controversial one.  The government has including 110,000 settlers and ninety "isolated" settlements in the West Bank on the map.  While the Netanyahu-government angered many on the Israeli-right by halting construction of new settlements, this move is to show that the development and protection of current settlements remains a goal for Israel.  This moves also demonstrates the desire for Israel to hold onto parts of the West Bank in any future settlement establishing a Palestinian state.  The center-Left Israeli Labor Party has condemned the addition of some settlements because it believes the move will damage the peace process and protect some radicals who use settlements as launching pads to terrorize Palestinian neighbors.  The Palestinian National Authority (West Bank government) and the Hamas-occupational government in Gaza have both condemned the map as proof that Israel has greater designs on the West Bank.

The map has proven to be a tightrope for Prime Minister Netanyahu has he tries to show his willing for a peace process while keeping settlers and their supporters happy.  While the third point will be contested for years to come both domestically and on the international stage, the success of the first two priorities could greatly help Israel's development.  A productive, integrated Israeli Arab workforce/population would show demonstrate Israel's ability to achieve peace while multiple economic cores could fund the state's increasing betterment.

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