Child in Golan Heights (illustration)
Child in Golan Heights (illustration)Flash 90

Israelis living in central Israel balked at the government earlier this week, after the Finance Committee extended a series of tax breaks to Israelis living "on the periphery" - in towns in Israel's north, south, and east with fewer than 75,000 residents. 

Building Israel's periphery - the Golan Heights, Negev, Galilee, Gaza Belt, and sometimes areas of Judea-Samaria - is widely seen as a means of Israel maintaining its borders, strengthening the Jewish presence in the Jewish state, and helping solve the housing crisis in more densely-populated areas of the country. The overwhelming majority of Israelis live in "central" Israel, however - and coaxing them to move is a challenge. 

While just 182 towns received the benefits since 2005, the Finance Committee expanded that program to 402 communities on Tuesday.

Criteria for inclusion in the plan is based on a points system, ranking cities based on economic need and geographic area. Tax breaks range 7-12%.

Three days later, one of the founders of the initial initiative to provide economic stimuli to the periphery noted that the benefits have strengthened Israel - and that Israelis should be grateful. 

"The tax benefits are a very good way to promote the periphery," Deputy Housing Minister, MK Jackie Levy (Likud), stated to Maariv Friday. "It's an idea that I initiated in 2005 when I served as mayor of Beit Shean."

"The purpose then, as now, was to bring strong population centers of major cities in the periphery - causing the periphery, such as Afula and Arad, to develop and grow, and that's what happened."

"Since the approval of the benefit, Beit Shean, the city where I live, has seen a sharp increase in the number of people who live there, a jump of four thousand people; the benefit has proven itself immediately after its approval." 

"For those who chose to attack the prime minister [over the move - ed.] I want to remind everyone that the man who approved those benefits in 2005 when he served as finance minister is the prime minister of today, Binyamin Netanyahu," Levy added.

Levy also thanked Finance Committee Chairman, MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), for approving the current expansion.

"This move was in perfect unison with them, we didn't lead it alone, without cooperation between us we wouldn't have this benefit."