The World Zionist Orgnization said yesterday it would need $15 million to expand Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, but Israeli Cabinet sources said only about a third that amount will be available because of budget restraints.
Amid the growing controversy over Israel's plans to expand its civilian outposts in the occupied territories, Shimon Ravid, director-general of the Land Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organization, disclosed plans to build 100 new housing units in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, plus 20 units in each settlement in the Jordan Valley. There are 19 settlements with a total of 480 families in the Jordan Valley.
Ravid said new water wells would be drilled in the Jordan Valley and that more land will be prepared for agricultural use, the entire project costling $15 million over the next four months. However, the Cabinet, faced with new wage demands by the Histadrut, Israel's labor federation, and a growing budget problem, is not expected to approve more than $5 million for the settlement plans, sources said.
The Ministerial Budget Committee on Settlements will decide the issue today.
Meanwhile, the Cabinet appointed two new committee to draft posiions for the Egyptain-Israeli peace talks, one to deal with economic aspects and one to devise positions on the issue of Israeli-developed oil fields in the Sinai Peninsula. The committee will be head by Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich and Energy Minister Yitzhak Modai, respectively.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat met with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko on a Moscow visit concerning opposition to the U.S. sponsored Egyptian-Israeli peace talks.