(Photo credits: Middle East Monitor)
Israeli officials are set to approve the construction of 10 new Jewish settlements in the Negev desert in a cabinet session scheduled for 27 March.
Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked and Housing Minister Ze’ev Elkin revealed the plans on 23 March, just one day after a Palestinian man was killed by the Israeli occupation forces following an alleged stabbing attack in the city of Beersheba.
According to the Israeli officials, five Jewish settlement towns will be constructed in the city of Arad, while another five towns will be built near roads that connect the city of Dimona and Beersheba.
“This historic and exciting decision has strategic … importance in strengthening the settlement of the Negev. The creation of ten new communities is Zionism in all its glory,” Shaked said.
Elkin noted that these building schemes would result in the strengthening of the economy in Negev, ultimately making the region even more desirable to settlers.
Earlier in March, the two ministers announced the construction of two towns in Negev.
The construction of the Jewish village of Kasif, which borders the Palestinian-majority villages of Tel Arad and Kasifa, will be completed within the next few months.
The Jewish settlements, which are illegal under international law, are set to house up to 125,000 people.
This newly established plan, however, will make life harder for the 300,000 Arab citizens of Israel who live along the Negev region.
Juma al-Zabarqa, former member and coordinator of the higher orientation committee for Arabs in Negev, responded to the new plan, saying: “This will be at our expense. It will be as if there are no Arabs living in the Negev.”
He also said that Palestinians make up 32 percent of the population of Negev, and that Israel fails to recognize this reality.
Palestinian Bedouins in the Negev region have been subjected to longstanding discrimination by Israel, as they are actively prevented from accessing state services such as water, electricity, and education.
Israel has also carried out a number of demolitions in the area in an attempt to replace Bedouin villages with Jewish-only settlements.
On 20 March, Israeli media outlets reported that a group of far-right Israelis led by a former police officer have set up an armed vigilante group to patrol the Negev region.
The formation of the extremist militia is likely to inflame tensions in the region, which, over the last three months, has witnessed fierce clashes between Palestinian Bedouins and occupation forces over a controversial tree-planting exercise in the area by the Jewish National Fund (JNF).