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Gallant declares support for new city in Samaria

"There needs to be a large and significant city developed there," stated the defense minister.

View of the Jewish city of Ariel in Samaria on July 2, 2020. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.
View of the Jewish city of Ariel in Samaria on July 2, 2020. Photo by Sraya Diamant/Flash90.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant on Thursday declared his support for establishing a large new city east of Ariel, the capital of Samaria, with the goal of further connecting the area to the center of the country.

The statement came as Gallant inaugurated an expansion of a security checkpoint on Route 5, a major traffic artery connecting central Israel with northern Samaria and the Jordan Valley.

The multi-million-shekel project aims to alleviate severe congestion at the security barrier, which poses a security threat, by adding an extra lane to ease the passage of tens of thousands of daily commuters.

Thursday’s inauguration ceremony was attended by Gallant, Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, Ariel Mayor Yair Chetboun, Israeli Defense Ministry director general Eyal Zami and other officials.

“Route 5 is the main traffic artery from the center of the country to the Jordan Valley. We still have more to do on this route, in the parts located in Ariel, [Kfar] Tapuach and eastward,” Gallant told attendees.

“There needs to be a large and significant city developed there, following what is happening in the mountain ridge of Ariel, because this is the most central junction that allows us to shift Israel’s population eastward,” explained the defense minister.

“Anyone who needed examples of how the war unfolding in Gaza also affects everything happening in Judea and Samaria. … There is fighting here and elimination of terrorists on a scale that, in my opinion, has never been seen before, certainly since the Second Intifada,” he said.

Gallant’s proposal to build a new city adds to the rapidly expanding Jewish population in Judea and Samaria. According to an annual report based on Interior Ministry data, the population in the region grew by nearly 15,000 last year alone and had an increase of over 15% since 2019.

The report, released in January, projects that this number will swell to more than 600,000 by 2030 and potentially exceed 1 million by 2047.

Dagan hailed the inauguration of the new highway as a “ray of light of victory” amid the conflict with Hamas in Gaza. “One day the war will end—we will win with God’s help—and the test will be how many Jews will live around Gaza, how many Jews will live on the northern border, how many Jews will live in Judea and Samaria,” he stated.

Gallant’s new city proposal fits into the “Samaria to a Million” plan proposed last year by Dagan to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The plan, which Dagan developed with other local leaders, called for the establishment of new cities, including near Ariel.

It also recommended expanding existing communities while connecting the region to central and northern Israel by trains and highways. The plan proposed the construction of a new hospital in Samaria, as well as industrial zones, to help build up the local economy.

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