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Israeli Cabinet boosts funds for Kotel infrastructure

Plan approved to add $16.5m. to the five-year budget for the Western Wall.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Cabinet meeting held at the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem, May 21, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a Cabinet meeting held at the Western Wall tunnels in Jerusalem, May 21, 2023. Photo by Kobi Gideon/GPO.

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday approved funding to upgrade infrastructure and encourage visits to the Western Wall plaza in Jerusalem.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s proposal will add approximately 60 million shekels ($16.5 million) to the five-year project.

The additional funding will provide a response to the increased pace of development work and construction being carried out at the site, as well as the discovery of archaeological finds, increased visits by students and soldiers and the implementation of additional educational activities.

The weekly Cabinet meeting was held in the Western Wall tunnels in honor of Jerusalem Day, which was celebrated on Thursday.

Netanyahu also spoke about tensions between coalition factions around how the 2023-24 state budget is being crafted, emphasizing that it will pass

Last week, the head of Otzma Yehudit, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, left empty the religious nationalist party’s six seats in the Knesset in protest of what he said was insufficient and unfair funding for regions that fall within the purview of the party’s Minister for the Development of the Periphery, the Negev and the Galilee Yitzhak Wasserlauf.

Netanyahu met with Ben-Gvir following the walkout.

United Torah Judaism Chairman Yitzhak Goldknopf is also demanding an additional NIS 600 million ($164 million) in the draft budget.

“I have some experience, I have passed 20 budgets, and last-minute arguments always arise and we will overcome them,” Netanyahu said.

The draft budget stands at 484 billion shekels ($132 billion) for 2023 and 514 billion shekels ($140 billion) for 2024.

Failure to pass the 2023 budget by May 29 would see the Knesset automatically dissolved and send Israel to its sixth election in just over four years.

The prime minister also addressed the comments made last week at the United Nations by Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas accusing Israel of fabricating Jewish historical ties to the Temple Mount.

“I would like to bring to his attention: We are holding the special Cabinet meeting this morning at the foot of the Temple Mount on which Solomon built the First Temple. The City of David was already here 3,000 years ago. The connection of the Jewish people to Jerusalem is a connection that has no parallel among the nations,” Netanyahu said.

Abbas at the U.N.’s Nakba Day event also likened Israel to Nazi Germany, eliciting condemnation from U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Deborah Lipstadt.

“P.A. President Abbas’s equating Israel with the lies of top Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels is an affront to Holocaust victims and survivors. Especially during a time of rising antisemitic violence throughout the world, such rhetoric about the world’s only Jewish state is entirely unacceptable,” tweeted Lipstadt.

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