Monday, August 19, 2013

Israel's Negev Frontier

The Economist reports on an Israeli turn toward focusing on the Negev as its main area of development:
Long in a slump, construction in Israel’s southern desert, the Negev, is outpacing not only that of the West Bank settlements, but in central Israel as well. At a cost of $6 billion, Israel is transforming the wastes around Beersheba, on the edge of the Negev, and building new cities, including one that is the country’s largest such project. By 2020 Israel plans to boost its Negev population by 50% to 1m, almost twice the number of settlers now in the West Bank and East Jerusalem...
A big snag is that 200,000 Arabs, most of them Bedouin, live there too. After Israel’s creation in 1948, the army pushed them into the Siyag, or reserve, comprising 10% of the Negev that they once roamed. Now the construction of vast bases in their midst for Israel’s air force, intelligence and training threatens further to erode their fading way of life. The Bedouin, the weakest bit of Israel’s population, complain that they are treated like West Bank Palestinians, many of whom earn a living building the Jewish settlements that displace them. On the podium at Kiriyat Hadracha, Mr Netanyahu hailed the patriotism of a developer who derided a Muslim festival because Bedouin labourers fail, he said, to show up for work.
The traditional "snag" in Israel's desire to expand settlement: people already living where it wants to start cities.



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