Israel plans to build ten new Jewish towns in Naqab region

Rainbow over Israel's southern Negev-Naqab desert following heavy rainfall (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  March 24, 2022

Five Jewish towns will be built near the city of Arad and another five close to the vital road that connects Beersheba and Dimona cities.

Israel’s interior minister said on Wednesday that the government will approve ten new settlements in the Naqab region at a cabinet meeting next Sunday. The announcement follows a recent stabbing and ramming attack that killed four Israelis in Beersheba.

Minister of the Interior Ayelet Shaked and Ze’ev Elkin, the housing minister, said that five Jewish towns would be built near the city of Arad and another five close to the vital road that connects Beersheba and Dimona cities.

“This historic and exciting decision has strategic and national importance in strengthening the settlement of the Negev. Creating ten new communities is Zionism in all its glory,” Shaked said.

Elkin said that the building scheme would strengthen the economy in the Naqab, known in Israel as the Negev, making it more desirable for Israeli families to move and live there and enhancing security in the country’s’ southern and largest region.

Almost 45 percent of Israelis live in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area, which stretches along the Mediterranean coast. However, the Naqab, an arid and desert terrain that makes up almost half of Israel’s size, holds only just under 9 percent of the country’s population.

There are almost 300,000 Palestinians who hold Israeli citizenship that live in dozens of villages in the Naqab.

Some 100,000 of them live in unrecognized villages and are denied any infrastructure or support from the government.

There are no means of transportation, no roads, no schools, and Israeli authorities don’t collaborate with local leadership.

Last week, Elkin announced that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) will resume a controversial forestation plan in the Naqab in close proximity to Palestinian towns.

In December and January, hundreds of Palestinians protested against the JNF forestation plan, which they claim is a pretext to pushing them out from their lands to make way for new Jewish towns. The plan was temporarily put on hold . 

Early in March, Shaked and Elkin had also announced the building of two towns in the Negev.

A Jewish village named Kasif will be built within a few months, housing between 100,000 and 125,000 people. Kasif will be located in the outskirts of the Palestinian village of Kasifa and the Palestinian-majority town of Tel Arad.

The second town in the plan will be near the border with Egypt. Called Nitzanei, it will be an agricultural town housing almost 2,200 families and is part of an expansion of the small town of Nitzanei Sinai.

“This will be at our expense, as if there are no Arabs living in the Negev,” said Juma al-Zabarqa, a former Knesset member and coordinator of the Higher Orientation Committee for Arabs in the Naqab.

“We constitute 32 percent of the population in the Naqab, but they plan as if we do not exist,” he told Middle East Eye.