Government advances plans for new community near Gaza Strip

Coalition moves forward with construction of ‘Hanon’ for at least 500 families, reportedly eyes restart of controversial Jerusalem development beyond Green Line

Illustrative: The Negev community of Carmit, November 18, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)
Illustrative: The Negev community of Carmit, November 18, 2022. (Gershon Elinson/Flash90)

The government said Sunday it would rapidly move forward with the establishment of a new community in the Negev near the Gaza Strip.

Hanon, to be built east of Kibbutz Saad, will begin with over 500 families, a mix of religious and secular households.

Although framed as a new announcement, the district planning authority responsible for the area approved the development towards the end of 2021.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking as part of the announcement, said: “We are continuing the momentum to build communities around the Gaza Strip as an adequate response to terrorism and as an expression of fundamental Zionism to settle the Land of Israel.”

Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf said: “The establishment of a new community is of enormous national importance, especially these days and especially in that region.”

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was originally involved in the plans for the new community when he held the position of housing minister from 2015 to 2018, described the move as “the practical realization of the Zionist vision.” He also said that “strengthening communities in the Negev and around Gaza at this time sends a clear message: In the face of threats in the region, we are establishing communities.”

Meanwhile, The Marker newspaper reported Sunday that members of the coalition have been seen touring the area of the abandoned airport at Atarot, north of Jerusalem, given the possible steps to renew plans to establish a new Jewish community there. The paper said the Prime Minister’s Office is seeking to move forward with the plans.

The road and entry point for passengers to the abandoned terminal building of Jerusalem Airport at Atarot, November 2021. (DH / Times of Israel)

It has been proposed that 9,000 apartments would be built as a neighborhood there, with a focus on ultra-Orthodox families. A further 350,000 square meters (86 acres) would be used for shops and offices, as part of a site covering a total of 1,243 dunams (307 acres). Atarot already houses Jerusalem’s largest industrial park and has good connections to the highway network.

International pressure previously delayed the plans for homes. As recently as 15 months ago, Jerusalem reassured the United States that it would not progress with the housing scheme.

The land is currently owned by a combination of the Israeli Land Authority, the Jewish National Fund and private owners, who are mostly Palestinian. The area is close to the Qalandiya refugee camp, and would prevent Ramallah and Bethlehem joining up over time as those cities expand. The site is also adjacent to the Jerusalem neighborhood of Neve Yaakov, where seven people were recently killed in a terrorist attack.

According to The Marker, those participating in a tour of the site were told in briefing materials that, “approving the construction of the neighborhood will contribute to the capital in terms of demographics and economics, and at the same time there is a strategic interest, because its construction will prevent the Palestinian continuum.”

Peace Now has previously described the proposals as, “a political bomb that could deal a severe blow to the prospect of peace and two states.”

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