There are countries that promise a computer for every child or a car for every employee. Israel, which as we well know is blessed with giant open spaces, promises a hill for every resident, and even upholds this promise. In this way, the settlers across the Green Line have the privilege of living on any hill they wish, and inside the Green Line, hills are dished out with generosity to individual farmers and religious settlement groups around Wadi Ara and the Jerusalem Hills.
Now the time has come for the Gaza residents evacuated during the disengagement to get a number of hills of their own. Tomorrow the National Council for Planning and Construction will discuss an appeal by the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel regarding the decision to set up a new community in the Lachish region for the evacuees, to be called Mirsham. The decision was taken after another community in the area, Hazan, had been approved. If the appeal is rejected, the plan will be implemented.
Anyone who considers this a just step that will finally provide a solution for the thousands of evacuees should remember that we are talking about a community that is supposed, at this stage, to absorb fewer than 40 evacuated families, and which is next to the Yakir area, where two other new communities have been approved. During the past four years, the planning authorities have approved the establishment of more than 10 new communities and have granted legal status to close to 30 individual farms. All this has taken place at a time when the official national planning policy is ostensibly based on refraining from setting up communities and private farms, and strengthening existing communities.
This policy now looks like a sick joke in view of the pressure from the various sectors and groups that cite special communal needs justifying a new location for development. Needless to say, all of them portray themselves as emissaries of the Zionist movement whose goal is to defend state lands from the invasion of Arabs.
The Housing Ministry said in response to the appeal by the environmental organization that Mirsham will serve as a counterweight to the Palestinian bloc in the southern Hebron Hills. The ministry representative who prepared the response apparently believes that one Israeli resident is worth more than several thousand gentiles. Otherwise it is unclear how he concluded that a community with fewer than 40 housing units will change the demographic balance. The settlers' claim that they will prevent Bedouin from "flowing" into the area is about as serious as that, too.
The facts on the ground are that Mirsham is about to be established next to the separation fence, which has already divided the Palestinian and Israeli areas. In actuality, it will serve as a counterweight to the plan to turn the Lachish region into a so-called biospheric area in which nature and open spaces are preserved as much as possible and development takes place near the existing communities.
That plan was promoted by the Interior Ministry and the Israel Lands Authority, the same bodies now supporting the establishment of new communities in the area. For them, the demographic principle is inflexible and is always available to justify the destruction of nature even further.
The biospheric principle is much more flexible and can always be cited when planning the destruction of the landscape in a way that will supposedly fit in with the areas of protected nature. No one knows this better than the planning-agency heads and government officials who have become great experts at both demography and demagoguery.
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