Israel parliament gives $3.95m to settler tourism plan

JERUSALEM - The Israeli parliament's finance committee on Sunday voted through US$3.3 million (S$4.34 million) to build a tourist centre at a settlement in the occupied West Bank, a statement said.

The money is for a project at the Barkan settlement in the north of the Palestinian territory, the Knesset statement said.

It comes less than three months before a snap general election on March 17 backed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu but denounced by the opposition.

Centrist Yesh Atid party leader Yair Lapid, sacked by Netanyahu as finance minister on December 2, called Sunday's finance committee vote "electoral corruption".

"Netanyahu wants to please the settler lobby before the elections," he told the private television station Channel 10.

On Sunday, the premier also raised the minimum monthly salary in the public service from 4,300 shekels (S$1,441) to 5,000 shekels.

He also announced a 30 per cent price reduction for 20,500 homes due to be built in the Jewish state.

Despite the Gaza Strip war in the summer, security is not the main concern among voters, with 34 per cent in a recent poll saying the main issue is the economy, compared with 30 per cent for security.

The expansion of Jewish settlements remains a major stumbling block to peace with the Palestinians. The international community says settlements on occupied land are illegal.