Bibi, Barak at Odds on Priorities Map
By Roni Sofer
December 12, 2009

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is looking into possible amendments to the designation of national priority regions in Israel, while one of his main coalition partners, the Labor Party, is expressing its displeasure with the scheme.

The PM is looking into various proposals presented to him, the PM's Office said Thursday evening in the wake of harsh criticism of the plan.

The national priority designation, which includes the settlements, has irked the Labor party, with Defense Minister Ehud Barak announcing that he will attempt to delay a government discussion of the issue.

Barak highlighted his disagreements with Netanyahu by stating that despite the PM's decision, Labor will not be endorsing extra investment in the settlements.

"The Labor party believes in the Galilee, in the Negev, and in border line communities," he said. "We're making an effort to minimize government investment in other locations.

Some of the harshest criticism stemmed from the prime minister's decision not to include the southern town of Ashkelon, which was targeted by rockets from Gaza in the past two years, as a national priority town.

On Wednesday, the PM's Office presented government ministers with the new national priorities plan, ahead of future cabinet deliberations on the matter.

The plan defines the general outline of governmental benefits and incentives in the fields of education, housing, urban development, employment and infrastructure; it also applies to the 110,000 Jewish residents of the West Bank who live outside the settlement blocks.