On Sunday last week, the government approved the list of localities in a renewed national priority ranking. The list prepared by the Attorney General of the Ministry of Housing clearly shows preference for Arab localities that received a priority rating of A-1, while lowering the status of national priority for neighboring Jewish localities. For example, Kfar Manda opposite the neighboring settlement of Hannaton.
Some ministers objected, and Netanyahu agreed that a committee would be established to examine the implications of the decision for communities in security and demographic distress. In practice, all the communities of the Jezreel Valley, Emek HaMayanot and Gush Misgav suffer from aging distress – the population is not only aging, it is also shrinking. With no young couples and no children, kindergartens in many localities are closing one after the other.
A clear preference for Arab localities. Kfar Mende, Lower Galilee, Photo: Moshe Shai
In an effort to deal with the procedural barriers that have blocked the development of Jewish communities in the Galilee and the Negev over the years, a proposal was raised at the cabinet meeting last Sunday to declare "Zionism as a guiding value," the purpose of which is to "instruct all elements in the government to give significant weight to Zionist values within the framework of the considerations included when setting policy and implementing it." This is a nice initiative, but like the Nation-State Law, it is liable to cause more harm than good – who will really interpret what Zionist values are?
In the eyes of many officials of the national and district planning authority, it is precisely the existing policy that expresses their perception of Zionist values in the 21st century. Therefore, action is needed by focusing on the de facto establishment of reality, not on declarations. Nonetheless, the Israeli government and the public should study in depth the trends that have caused discrimination against Jewish settlement in the work of government ministries.
Jewish settlement in the Negev was subjected to extensive oppression. Negev Roads, Photo: Dudu Greenspan
The first trend stems from the policy of marketing the land by the Israel Land Authority, which sees the economic profit of the Israeli government as the owner of the land as a leading value, above any national consideration. The second trend is rooted in post-Zionist trends that have taken root in Israeli public administration. The influence of these teachings on the study of geography and spatial planning in Israeli universities is clearly evident in the value baggage that guides the work of the officials responsible for development and planning in the planning authorities.
A public struggle is required
A renewed declaration of adherence to Zionist values is welcome, but in itself it is not enough. A broad public struggle is required, aware of the widespread oppression that Jewish settlement in the Galilee and the Negev finds itself in. The entire public is required to struggle over the very possibility and chance of young couples to extricate themselves from the trend of government construction, which is pushing the Jewish majority to crowd into apartment towers along the dense coastal strip from Nahariya to Ashkelon. Meanwhile, in the current trends, under the guidance of state authorities, the entire interior of the country is increasingly emptying of the Jewish population. This requires a comprehensive national turnaround in cross-sectoral public support.
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