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Government advances housing plan for Druze and Circassians

Discharged soldiers and young couples the most impacted by the obstacles to construction.

People protest against the construction of a wind farm on the Golan Heights, June 23, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
People protest against the construction of a wind farm on the Golan Heights, June 23, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.

The Israeli Cabinet on Sunday advanced a plan for construction and development in Druze and Circassian communities, seeking to address a significant shortage of housing.

The proposal brought forward by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu follows rare violent protests last month by Druze residents of the Golan Heights against the construction of wind turbines on the strategically placed plateau.

Druze leaders said the demonstrations were connected to frustration over the lack of construction and housing in their communities in the Galilee. 

Government officials said the two issues were separate and that the Druze community on the Israeli Golan had been influenced by incitement by their brethren on the Syrian side of the Heights, who were exploiting the issue of the turbines, which had been agreed upon previously.

“Today, we are bringing a plan to advance construction in, and the strengthening of, the Druze and Circassian communities,” Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly Cabinet meeting. “We are going to invest unprecedented efforts and resources in order to close the gaps in housing, planning and development.”

The premier had met with Sheikh Mowafaq Tarif, qadi (spiritual leader) of the Druze in Israel, and agreed to his request to freeze construction of the turbines over the Id al-Adha holiday, which is observed by both Druze and Muslims.

Work on the turbines may resume as soon as Tuesday.

Netanyahu said that he was aware of the “distress” in the Druze communities over the housing shortage, calling it a “major problem.”

“We want to deal with it and do so in a way that will really lift the impediments to planning and developing housing in the communities, including advancing new neighborhoods for discharged soldiers and young couples,” Netanyahu said.

“People are being discharged from service, sometimes outstanding service, and afterwards they are unable to even buy a room. This hue and cry has reached us and we are dealing with it.” 

Israeli Druze and Circassian men serve in the IDF, with a high proportion in combat roles.

As part of the plan, an interministerial committee—to be chaired by the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office—will be established to reduce the obstacles to housing development and planning in the communities, and the Druze and Circassian local authorities will receive budgetary assistance.

In addition, state land that is appropriate for the planning and development of new neighborhoods for discharged soldiers and young couples will be identified, and a new master plan for 2024-2028 for the Druze and Circassian communities will be prepared.

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