Anger over Israeli government settlements plan for Galilee towns

A government programme to promote Jewish settlement in the Galilee has raised objections from Arab-Israeli politicians and environmentalists.

The plan, prepared by the Settlement Division of the World Zionist Organisation, a quasi-governmental department devoted mainly to boosting the Jewish population in parts of Israel, calls for the founding of new communities and the expansion of existing towns and villages to bring an additional 100,000 Jewish citizens to the Galilee.

The aim is to “create a significant demographic balance” and follows a similar plan in the 1980s to build new Jewish villages in the northern region where there is an Arab majority.

Current rules limit construction in the Bet Netofa Valley — an area that the planners have earmarked for the development — and these regulations would have to be overridden.

The plan has drawn criticism from the Arab-Israeli parties in the Knesset who claim that the preference for new Jewish residents will come at the expense of existing residents, both Jewish and Arab.

The Society for Protection of Nature called for a national plan to alleviate the housing crisis rather than “wasting valuable land resources and ruining unique eco-systems”.

Last updated: 5:45pm, December 5 2013