The “Negev Progress Plan”, expected to increase Israel’s desert population by half a million people in the upcoming 20 years, will be a nod to David Ben-Gurion’s vision for prosperity & settlement in the Negev, as it will also help ease overcrowding in Israel’s center.
By Hezi Sternlicht
The cabinet is set to vote Sunday on a plan for increased development in the Negev Desert, including the establishment of 22 new communities. The new plan, nicknamed the “Negev Progress Plan,” references the Jewish Agency’s historic 11 Points in the Negev plan, which established 11 settlements in 1946.
The new plan will establish settlements from Sderot to Yeruham, near the original 11.
A second historical reference in the plan is the date on which the vote will take place, 41 years to the day since the death of former Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the figure most strongly associated with the development of the Negev.
According to the new plan, the Negev’s population will grow by about 500,000, reaching about 1.8 million residents by 2035.
“The Negev development plan is a long-term plan, but its initial implementation is expected to yield benefits for the Negev in the short term as well,” said Housing and Construction Minister Uri Ariel.
“On this day, the anniversary of Ben-Gurion’s death — together with the prime minister and the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry, the Agriculture Ministry, the Interior Ministry and the local leaders and authorities in the Negev — we will continue to move forward and to fulfill the Old Man’s [Ben-Gurion’s nickname] vision of settlement and prosperity in the Negev: ‘Where there is no vision, the people perish [Poverbs 29:18],'” said Ariel.
The plan will involve building about 490,000 new housing units in the Negev, 17,000 of them in the new communities, as well as repairing existing housing units. Twenty-two communities will be established, with minimal environmental impact, at least seven of them Bedouin communities. The rest will be regular communities for the general population, including the Bedouin.
According to demographic forecasts, Israel’s population is expected to grow to 12 million by 2035, with the highest population density in the country’s central Dan region. The plan to increase development and settlement in the Negev is part of a strategy to deal with population growth and the cost of living as the country continues to grow. Ideally, settlement will be spread more evenly throughout the country, preventing overcrowding in the center.
This will not only lead to prosperity in the lesser-settled parts of Israel, but is also expected to help lower housing prices and the cost of living in the Dan region.
View original Israel Hayom publication at: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=21789