An article in Ha’aretz today (‘Judaization of the Negev at any cost’) covers the recently announced plan by the Israeli government to establish 10 new communities not far south of the Green Line in the north of al-Naqab (Negev).
While officially the initiative is about ‘developing the periphery’ and lowering house prices, a moment of candour by a high-ranking Jewish Agency (JA) official confirms what has already been suspected. Quoted in a report by the Knesset’s Research and Information Centre, the JA’s director-general of settlement division Yaron Ben Ezra said:
The goal of the plan is to grab the last remaining piece of land and thereby prevent further Bedouin incursion into any more state land and the development of an Arab belt from the south of Mount Hebron toward Arad and approaching Dimona and Yeruham, and the area extending toward Be’er Sheva.
Last year, the government was not quite as explicit, instead describing the new towns as part of a “Zionist vision for making the Negev flourish”. But it should be no surprise that the proposal targets Bedouin citizens, given that it was drawn up by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Housing and Construction Ministry. Netanyahu has described Palestinian in Israel as a “demographic problem”, while Housing Minister Ariel Atias sees it as “a national duty” to “prevent the spread” of the Arab minority.
It is not the first time that JA officials have been honest about this sort of ‘development’. In 2002, the body announced its aim of securing a “Zionist majority” in the Negev and Galilee, with the then-JA treasurer Shai Hermesh admitting that the reason for the Negev plan is
to get around the problem that the government must act on behalf of all citizens of the State of Israel while the WZO is entitled to act for the sake of the Jewish people.
And all of this in the Middle East’s only democracy.