Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has vowed to crack down on rampant illegal construction in the Arab sector, and announced a government aid package to boost Jewish communities and businesses in Judea and Samaria which have been battered by a wave of Arab violence.
"Today, the Cabinet will discuss an assistance plan to strengthen communities in Judea and Samaria," Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. "This entails the work of many ministries on behalf of the residents there and will – inter alia – strengthen security, assist small businesses and encourage tourism."
Turning to the issue of illegal Arab construction, Netanyahu emphasized that in-tandem with unprecedented government investment in the Arab sector, Israeli Arabs would also be expected to observe basic planning laws.
Many Jewish communities regularly complain that while the slightest infringements in their towns can result in demolitions or fines, little is being done to address land-grabs and other illegal construction projects in Arab communities, particularly in the Negev and Galilee regions.
"The Cabinet will also discuss a comprehensive plan to respond to the absence of law enforcement against planning and construction offenses in the Arab sector," Netanyahu pledged.
"We have an interest in assisting Israel's Arab citizens and we are doing so in very many areas, but completing the implementation of the plan will be done together with the completion of the necessary legislation vis-à-vis enforcement regarding planning and construction in this sector."
The prime minister also addressed Israel's support to Cyprus, which is currently battling a major forest fire.
Israeli firefighting aircraft are already in Cyprus to help battle the blaze, the PM said, while noting that Cyprus was the first country to offer support to Israel during the devastating Carmel Forest fire in 2010.
"Several years ago, during the massive Carmel fire, I contacted the President of Cyprus, he was the first I turned to, and the Prime Minister of Greece, that they should send firefighting aircraft," Netanyahu recounted.
"They had one such aircraft. They took it out of its hangar and sent it here.
"Last night I ordered that three of our firefighting aircraft, out of our fleet of 13 or 14, be sent to help them, and the planes are now in Cyprus. This is part of the regional arrangement we have made with Cyprus and Greece about emergency assistance. I am pleased that we are able to extend this assistance."