The Israeli government has earmarked around 300 million dollars in next year's budget for Jewish settlers in the occupied Palestinian territories, an Israeli peace group said Tuesday.
"It is a sorry state of affairs when the government continues to subsidies and develop the settlements at the very time that they constitute a central obstacle to extricating the country from a tragic political and military quagmire," said Galia Golan, a member of anti-settlement group Peace Now.
Peace Now said the 2001 budget includes 1.2 billion shekels (300 million dollars) for the settlers who live in around 160 blocs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, land captured by Israel in war 33 years ago.
The money will go towards providing protection for the settlers, building roads and houses as well as an "expropriation compensation" fund to pay Palestinians for land seized to develop settlements, it said in a statement.
The fate of the some 200,000 Jewish settlers who live in around 150 blocs in the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been among the most contentious of issues standing in the way of an Israeli-Palestinian peace accord.
The Palestinian Authority regards all Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as violations of international law.
Peace Now accused the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak of continuing the same settlement policies of the former right-wing government of Benjamin Netanyahu.
"There is no question that the expansion of settlement activity was one of the central elements in Israel's failure to create minimum credibility in the eyes of the Palestinians and, as such, a central reason for the grassroots frustration with the peace process that is fueling the current conflagration," Golan said.
More than 180 people, most of them Palestinians, have been killed in more than five weeks of deadly unrest during the Palestinian Intifada or uprising against the Israeli occupation -- JERUSALEM (AFP)
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