The economic ministerial council at the Knesset approved a plan to provide 97 million shekels in aid to improve infrastructure, agriculture and for settlement expansion in the Jordan Valley area.

The council approved a three-year plan to improve agriculture in the area, in order to “encourage and increase settlements”. The plan will be implemented between 2006-2008 and will cost 85 million NIS.

The government also intends to reconstruct flats in the Jordan Valley and increase the funding for settlements in the area to 2.2 million shekels in 2005.

The ministerial council also agreed to cover the financial expanses which are needed to develop the infrastructure of settlements located north of the Dead Sea and the Afraim settlement, at an estimated cost of 10 million shekels.

The project will be in cooperation with the heads of the settlement councils in the area, the director general of the Ministry of Housing and the Ministry of Finance.  

Meanwhile, Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel should encourage investment in West Bank settlements, and approve new programs to develop the agricultural sector in the Jordan valley and to double its production.  

Netanyahu said that the Jordan Valley is very important to Israel and that he considers it “Israel’s eastern defense wall”.

“The Jordan valley will be under Israeli control…for ever,” he added.

The Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited Ariel settlement in the West Bank on Thursday and vowed that “it will always be an inseparable part of Israel”.

Sharon also said that he intends to expand the settlement, whose construction he personally supervised, and other settlement blocs in the West Bank.

“These settlements will remain part of the State of Israel,” Sharon said. “They will remain in geographical continuity with Israel”.

“These settlements represent the success of our dream of keeping large settlement blocs in the West Bank,” he added.

As Israel continues its plans to expand settlements in the Jordan Valley, in Ariel, north of the West Bank and Kfar Aztion settlement in the south, in addition to its plans to expand the Maali Admum settlement in order to connect it to Jerusalem, the geographical continuity of the Palestinians areas will be destroyed. This in turn destroys any chances of establishing a viable Palestinian state with the required geographical continuity.