The cabinet is expected to approve on Sunday a decision to establish five new communities near Arad, only one of which is slated to serve the Bedouin population. The proposal took shape several months ago but is now getting a tailwind from the grave terrorist attack that took place last week in Be’er Sheva, perpetrated by a resident of the Bedouin town of Hura. Right-wing circles claimed that the attack was a result of a lack of governance in the Negev. Now, as in cases of attacks taking place beyond the Green Line, or 1967 border, in the wake of such attacks, comes the “proper Zionist response,” which means communities established mainly for Jews.
The proposal says the establishment of these communities will contribute to realizing the vision of making the Negev flourish, attracting newcomers to the region and diversifying housing options. The real intention can be discerned in the subsequent claim that this is a step designed to bolster existing, regulated communities and to create contiguity in an area that is almost devoid of Jewish communities. In other words, the aim is to “Judaize” the Negev.
The current step is part of a more extensive plan aimed at establishing 20 new communities in the Negev. It is totally contrary to the plan of making more effective use of land in Israel through the bolstering of existing communities, while utilizing existing infrastructure. The new plan will not help in enhancing governance in the Negev, and only serve to augment the frustration of the Bedouin population, which doesn’t live in regulated communities, as they watch a host of new communities being established for Jews.
From an economic standpoint, this is a total waste of public resources. This is the opinion of Finance Ministry officials, who object to these new communities and argue that this will greatly expand investment in surplus infrastructure, creating an ineffective array of services. The additional funding needed for new communities in comparison to building in existing communities is even greater, due to the large geographic spread of the five planned communities near Arad. To the economic considerations one should add the environmental aspects, which involve damage to open areas due to the spread of construction and infrastructure work.
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What the Negev needs more than anything is a continuing investment in educational infrastructure, housing and job-creation for the Bedouin population, in the spirit of a recent government decision to allocate billions of shekels for Bedouin education and jobs to overcome the poverty and neglect that breed crime and ultra-nationalist sentiment. Moreover, the Negev needs a significant bolstering of cities like Arad, Be’er Sheva and Netivot, with more employment hubs, hospitals and schools, and an improvement in public transportation. New communities will attract affluent people from the cities, leaving the Negev with small, isolated communities surrounded by socioeconomically disadvantaged cities and neglected Bedouin communities.