A previously unrecognized Jewish town in southern Israel was retroactively declared legal on Monday, according to a statement released by the Interior Ministry.
The controversial community known as Sheizaf was declared illegal on Sunday by the Beersheba District Court, only to have its status re-affirmed today in an abrupt move by Interior Minister Gideon Sa’ar.
“Today’s decision will contribute to increased [Jewish] settlement in the Negev and will help strengthen the demographic makeup of the region,” Sa’ar said.
The appeal to the district court was made on zoning and environmental grounds, as the town was built on land designated for a “student village.” In a statement released by the court Sunday, Judge Sarah Dovrat said that all communities in the Negev Desert must operate according to the law.
“Despite the importance of [developing of the Negev], there is no excuse to cut corners,” she said.
Sheizaf is set to become a mixed religious-secular community with 250 housing units, according to plans released by the Ramat Hanegev regional council. It is set to join an additional two localities that are currently in planning stages.
Saar was motivated to torpedo the court’s decision to dismantle the town in part because expanding an existing settlement costs less than building a new one, according to the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth. Sa’ar was set to formally resign from his post on Tuesday, citing personal issues, following an earlier announcement in September.
“I’m glad that my final decision as interior minister has helped contribute to the development of the Negev,” he said.