A VIEW of the settlement of Eli, in Samaria. Yesha Council deputy head Yigal Dilmoni said yesterday that turning Judea and Samaria into ‘Gush Dan east’ could significantly help the country’s housing problems..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Politicians and settlers are pushing to hit the million-man mark within 10 to 15 years in the West Bank.
The plan is under development by Construction Minister Yoav Gallant and the Yesha Council.
At present, the settler population has grown by between 13,000 and 16,000 people a year, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, with a growth rate that is double that of the rest of the country.
To hit the new target goal, the population would have to increase by 40,000 residents annually, to grow from its present mark of approximately 400,000 settlers to the projected one million.
“We are working to realize the vision of a million Israeli residents in Judea and Samaria,” Yesha Council head Hananel Dorani said.
Development and construction of the area will happen through a joint initiative with the government of Israel. It will create a much more vibrant life and be significant for industry, business, the economy, jobs and culture, benefiting the Arab residents of the region as well, he said.
Details of the plan have yet to be published, even though reports of it have circulated in the media over the last year and have been discussed in the Knesset.
Yesha Council deputy head Yigal Dilmoni said that the initial focus is on what will be called “Gush Dan east,” where the hope is to build 63,000 units.
Such building would be a “super-tanker” solution to the high housing prices in the Gush Dan area, including Tel Aviv, Dilmoni said.
He added that the settlements in the area already provide housing to a diverse population of religious, haredi and secular Jews.
A focus on “Gush Dan east” should be part of a new outlook on Judea and Samaria as a resolution to problems faced by Israel, particularly in the housing realm, Dilmoni said.
Hagit Ofran of Peace Now
, who often warns against escalating settler building and population growth, was skeptical that the numbers could be that high.
“In the past the settlers said they will have a million settlers by [the year] 2000, but they did not get there. Settlers are only 4.5% of the Israeli public,” Ofran said.
“The vast majority of the Israelis do not want to become settlers,” Ofran added.
But Beit Aryeh-Ofarim Regional Council head Avi Naim said that he thinks the location of his communities – 15 minutes from Ben-Gurion Airport, half an hour from Tel Aviv and 40 minutes from Jerusalem – makes them an ideal location for any Israeli.
More to the point, he said, the council is already building 1,300 homes and is working on plans for 3,000-5,000 new units.
He was quick to point out that he is not part of the Yesha Council, but when it comes to building he is on the same page.
Naim said he is certain his communities, home to close to 5,000 residents, would become a city of some 30,000-40,000 people in the near future.
Ariel Mayor Eliyahu Shaviro said that he just finished building a neighborhood of 839 homes that are part of future plans for 16,000 more homes.
The city of Ariel, which is home to 20,000 residents and houses another 15,000 connected to its university, uses only about a quarter of its land, Shaviro said.
It is only half an hour from Tel Aviv and could in the future be home to 100,000 people, he said.
Other communities with projected growth as part of the million-person plan would be: Modi’in Illit, Barkan, Revava, Nili, Na’ale, Avnei Hefetz, Karnei Shomron, Emmanuel, Peduel, Alei Zahav.