Israel approves $3.3 million for tourism center in West Bank

Israel's finance committee has approved a plan to build a $3.3 million tourism center in the Barkan settlement in the West Bank.
The center appears to be part of a broader package of economic stimulus. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has raised the minimum wage for government employees by about 20%, and also imposed a 30% price reduction for 20,500 new apartments built on government land.
Centrist Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid criticized the committee's vote, saying it was Netanyahu's plan to please settlers ahead of the March 17 election. Netanyahu fired Lapid as finance minister on Dec. 2.
Despite recent conflicts, more Israeli voters said they would base their vote in the upcoming election on the economy (34%) than on security (30%), according to a Jerusalem Post poll.
The economy in the region is largely dependent on agriculture. Tourism offers an opportunity for revenue. Still, it is unclear how much a tourism center could do to encourage tourism to the region — given that the U.S. State Department warns against traveling to the West Bank, citing safety concerns.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are considered illegal by the international community. The Geneva Convention forbids construction on occupied land.

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