Establishing new communities in the Negev stands in stark contradiction to Israel’s long-term planning principles.
Haaretz Editorial

The cabinet is expected to approve the establishment of 10 new communities in the Arad area, in the framework of a project described as part of “the Zionist vision to make the Negev bloom,” and in keeping with the “cabinet’s policy to develop and promote the periphery, attract people to it and increase its housing supply.”

Nevertheless, this is an extremely problematic plan.

Establishing new communities in the Negev stands in stark contradiction to Israel’s long-term planning principles, as reflected in the comprehensive National Master Plan 35 for development and preservation, and the Israel 2020 Plan.

These two plans are based on strengthening the four major cities (Haifa, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Be’er Sheva ) and preserving open areas and rural communities. That is the only solution that makes sense in the most densely populated state in the West whose dwindled land reserves and green lungs are rapidly diminishing.

The Negev does not need additional communities that will devour land, infrastructure and money, and destroy a region of great ecological importance, on the doorstep of communities that have been neglected for years. One example is Arad, a quality town turned into a failing community. The last thing Arad needs is communities that – under the deceptive code “communities for a strong population” – would create by means of admission committees ways to exclude Negev residents, and cultivate sleeper suburbs cut off from employment centers.

The communities will not solve the housing distress in Israel. At the very most, they will enable a few hundred families to improve their housing conditions in a remote area. The ultra-Orthodox town planned in the region is also likely to create another pocket of poverty and separatism.

Establishing the new communities will also cause an unnecessary clash with the Negev’s Bedouin, who have just found out that 30,000 of them are to be forcibly evicted as part of another pretentious cabinet plan. The Bedouin are suspicious about the link between the plans, feeling, justifiably, that the communities plan is part of an explicit intention to kick them out, as the expression “Judaization of the Negev and Galilee” implies.

It should be hoped, therefore, that the ministers who oppose the harmful, superfluous plan, headed by Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan, are successful in foiling it.