A laborer works on an apartment building under construction in Jerusalem.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Sunday’s cabinet decision to build five new communities in the Negev drew immediate fire from two NGOs claiming that the plans will lead to the dislocation of thousands of Beduin.
The Association for Civil Rights in Israel and Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights issued a statement asking if only Jews have the right to live in established communities.
According to statement, “the significance of the decision is the eviction of thousands of people from their homes in order to establish well-kept communities for Jews.”
One government official questioned the group’s figures, and said the whole process would be carried out according to the law.
“Everything will be done to work with the Beduin communities, and the idea is not to displace them,” the official said, noting that the impact on the Beduin was raised in the cabinet meeting.
The plan, put forward by Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Kulanu), was opposed in the cabinet only by his party colleague Avi Gabbay, the Environmental Protection Minister.
Gabbay argued that veteran communities should be strengthened instead of having more built.
Last week the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), said the new towns could weaken existing Negev communities, which badly need upgraded infrastructure and a population increase.
The organization also worried that additional building could disturb the continuity of open space in the Negev and hurt its ecosystems.
Galant, who praised the step as the realization of one of Zionism’s dreams, has argued that the purpose of the move is to promote the country’s periphery and attract people to the Negev.
In a Facebook post last week, Galant said there was a need to increase housing in the area to accompany the relocation of IDF bases to the region. This move, he said, “will be good for the Negev’s economy, its tourism, and its settlement, which today is far less than its potential.”
He said that there is undoubtedly an environmental challenge in building new communities, but efforts would be made to avoid harming natural resources and that the construction would take place in areas where there has already been significant “human interference.”
The five communities – already named Neve Gurion, Eshel Hanasi, Shelach, Vadia and Daniel – will go up in the region between Beersheba and Dimona.
Daniel is named after Daniel Tragerman, the four-year-old boy killed by mortar fire in his home in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, during last year’s war in Gaza.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised the decision as a materializing vision of massive governmental infrastructure alongside business in the Negev.
The communities “need to be built quickly while bypassing bureaucratic processes,” Netanyahu said. “In order for these communities to succeed there is a need for high growth, and therefore we created growth engines there, first and foremost cyber.”
Beersheba is a leading center for cyber security research and development.