Northen Negev 311.
(photo credit: SPNI Open Landscape Institute)
To the dismay of green groups, the government decided to move forward with an
initiative to construct 10 new northern Negev communities in its weekly cabinet
meeting on Sunday.
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“The government decided to begin administrative work
on examining settlement development in the outskirts of Arad,” read a statement
from the cabinet secretary’s official Facebook page on Sunday evening, “in order
to attract a new population to the Negev by increasing the housing supply in the
Both Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and the Society
for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) had sent letters to all cabinet
members prior to the meeting, in an attempt to convince them to vote against the
proposed development. Instead, both argued, the government should be focusing on
expanding housing and infrastructures within already existing cities and
communities in the northern Negev region.
“Strengthening the Negev is a
national mission, which must be done by condensing existing communities and not
by establishing new ones,” SPNI said in a statement in response to the cabinet
The Settlements Division of the World Zionist
Organization, which said it will be responsible for planning 10 new northern
Negev communities as a result of the cabinet decision, argued that the
development will “give life” to the region.
“The government decision to
allow the Settlements Division to advance its detailed planning and submission
to the National Planning and Construction Committee is a vote of confidence in
settling the periphery and in the activity of the Settlement Division in
particular,” said a statement from Yaron Ben-Ezra, head of the division, which
operates under the Prime Minister’s Office.
Prior to the vote, Erdan had
submitted a letter to cabinet secretary Zvi Hauser on Thursday, objecting to the
proposal and calling the establishment of the new communities “inconsistent”
with the findings of the Trajtenberg Committee on Socioeconomic Change, which
emphasized the importance of “strengthening weak populations in
This decision will cause harm, Erdan wrote, and contribute to
“the weakening of existing cities in the Negev, for example: Arad, Dimona and
Beersheba, and thusly will result in the unnecessary destruction of the
environment and of open spaces,” Erdan wrote.
“It is clear that the
proposed decision is not an activity oriented toward the application of the
Trajtenberg Report, but is completely contrary to it, and its implementation
will bring a deepening of social gaps in the Negev and the weakening of existing
Stressing his disapproval for further desecration of open
spaces, Erdan called the land in question a “transition region between the
desert area and the Mediterranean area, whose ecological sensitivity is very
SPNI had also distributed a letter among cabinet ministers on
Thursday, agreeing that the creation of new Negev towns would inevitably cause
damage to the current communities.
“In the development of new communities
there is a widespread environmental impact, as opposed to the thickening of
existing communities, whose expansion impacts the environment to a much lesser
extent,” SPNI had said prior to the vote.
“Condensing the existing
settlements in the Negev is a national mission, and therefore it is appropriate
to set aside full attention and resources to the absorption of new families and
developing income sources within existing cities and communities.”