The World Zionist Organization’s Settlement Division, which is defined by the government as one of its executive arms, is formulating a plan to settle more Jews in the Galilee to “achieve a demographic balance with the Arab population.” This would be accomplished by establishing new towns and expanding existing ones beyond the limits set in the national master plan for development.
According to the daily newspaper “Haaretz”, the goal of the plan is stated clearly in the letters: To further expand and develop the “Mitzpim” (hilltop settlement) plan of the 1980s, with the goal of “giving expression to Israeli sovereignty through settlement activity.” “This is a continuation of the demographic war in the 1980s that was conducted against the Arab population,” said MK Hanna Swaid (Hadash), who lives in the Galilee and is a planning expert. “The previous plan undermined older cities like Karmiel, Tiberias and Afula by drawing strong populations to the single-family homes in the new communities. But the area has enough communities. What is needed to help both the Jews and the Arabs is more jobs, infrastructure improvements and a reduction in the education and employment gaps between the center and the periphery. This [proposed] process is not a planning process, but part of the struggle over the land.”
The Settlement Division proposal could have far-reaching implications for the open areas of the Galilee. “Establishing new communities involves more than just the residential structures themselves, but also accompanying infrastructures like roads, electricity, sewerage and water pipes,” noted Itamar Ben David, head of planning for the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. “This will ruin the landscape, reduce the amount of open space and lead to the destruction of natural habitats. This is especially true when we’re talking about single-family homes that are built in an outrageous waste of precious land.” “Unfortunately we are seeing, over and over, and during the past year or two even more often, the Israeli government, through the Settlement Division and the Construction and Housing Ministry, working vigorously to advance initiatives like this,” Ben David continued. “These initiatives contravene the national planning policy led by the Interior Ministry, and come instead of working toward a serious and thorough solution to the real problem, which is the housing shortage.”