Over the past decade, the jurisdiction of Harish, located on the Green Line, south of Haifa, has been expanded twice. Now the Interior Ministry is considering yet another expansion of about half of the town’s existing area, pending Minister Aryeh Dery’s approval.
At the same time, the Housing Ministry is pushing a new master plan to “enable the town’s growth.”
Harish, however, is far from being as populated as the ministries have been predicting it would be since the community was granted “national preference” status and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that transforming it into a city is a “great Zionist message, also directed at Israel’s enemies.”
Netanyahu did not specify whom he was referring to – the disenfranchised Palestinians beyond the Green Line or Israel’s Arab citizens. Perhaps the differences are smaller than they seem. An internal report prepared by the Housing Ministry affords a glimpse of the government’s planning rationale.
This is how the report deals with the “population forecasts” in the Hadera district, which Harish falls under. Four charts detail the demographic changes up to 2050, in which the number of Arabs in the region is estimated to reach 51 percent.
“The picture of the demographic growth in the surrounding space shows the area is marked by a growing, significant rate of Arab population,” the Housing Ministry’s document stated. “The demographic balance is about to change: A predominantly non-Jewish population will inhabit the district.”
Facing such an internal threat, there can be no doubting Harish’s “centrality in the region,” which is further enhanced due to the “national arteries coming out of it.” The conclusion is clear: Harish’s “accelerated future growth would change the demographic trends,” as Or Kashti wrote in Haaretz (“Israel seeks to expand Jewish town in bid to prevent Arab majority in the region,” October 29).
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It isn’t every day that one catches a glimpse of government rationale, an updated reincarnation of the Koenig Memorandum, which was drafted for the first Land Day in 1976. At that time, the government spoke about the need to “populate the Galilee with Jews.” Now the focus has shifted to Wadi Ara.
Although almost 45 years have passed, very little has changed in the state’s policy toward the Arab communities, which have been suffering for decades from lack of development, planning and land. Expanding Harish will block the development of the region’s Arab communities, some of which have been waiting for years for the authorities’ decision on their requests to expand their jurisdictions.
“Demographic balance” between Jews and Arabs – as the Housing Ministry’s report put it – cannot be used as a legitimate consideration in the government’s decisions toward all of its citizens.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.