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Samaria leader presents plan to boost Jewish population

Yossi Dagan called on PM Netanyahu to adopt his plan as a way to resolve the "national crisis of overcrowding in the center of the country."

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan poses for a picture in the Evyatar outpost in Samaria, June 22, 2023. Photo by Flash90.
Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan poses for a picture in the Evyatar outpost in Samaria, June 22, 2023. Photo by Flash90.

The Samaria Regional Council, which administers communities in the northern part of Samaria, has unveiled a plan that seeks to increase the number of Jewish residents living in the area from barely 50,000 to over one million, claiming the initiative would “strengthen Zionism” and solve Israel’s housing crisis.

The “Samaria to a Million” proposal, which was first shared on Wednesday in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had been in the making for over a year with the backing of “hundreds” of local leaders, said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan.

The initiative suggests building new cities and expanding existing communities, while connecting the remote region to central and northern Israel by trains and highways. The plan also proposes the construction of a new hospital in Samaria, as well as industrial zones.

A new city of 133,000, named Shamir, would be established in the vicinity of Rosh Ha’ayin, near the security fence, in addition to the planned town of Ta’anakh, which would absorb another 30,000 Israelis. Notably, the entire project would be built on lands that are legally designated as state (public) lands.

On Wednesday, Dagan called on the Netanyahu government to officially adopt his organization’s plan as a way to resolve what he described as a “national crisis of overcrowding in the center of the country.”

“The plan is based on the assumption that Samaria is the key to resolving [the housing crisis],” the Samaria Regional Council said in a press release, adding: “We are speaking of millions of desolate dunams and the only reserve of state land near the center [of Israel], around 20 kilometers from Tel Aviv.”

The Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem had no comment on the council’s proposal.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, who also oversees civilian issues in Judea and Samaria as a minister in the Defense Ministry, intends to present a broader development plan for Judea and Samaria at Sunday’s Cabinet meeting.

The move comes during a wave of deadly Palestinian terrorist attacks against Israelis in Judea and Samaria, including the murder of a kindergarten teacher near Hebron on Monday and the murders of a father and son in Huwara on Saturday.

Smotrich’s two-year program to expand development in Judea and Samaria is projected to cost around 700 million shekels ($186.1 million), and according to estimates that figure could rise to 1 billion shekels ($265.9 million).

Smotrich is reportedly seeking to encourage demographic growth in more remote parts of Judea and Samaria by earmarking over 100 million shekels ($26.6 million) for northern Samaria, the Hebron Hills, Kiryat Arba and the areas around the Dead Sea and Jordan Valley.

The Jewish population in Judea and Samaria has surpassed half a million people, according to a report published earlier this year. There were 502,991 Jews living in Judea and Samaria as of Jan. 1, according to the document, which culled data from Israel’s Interior Ministry.

The 500,000-plus Jews living beyond the 1967 Green Line account for some 12% of all Jews in Israel. The natural growth of the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria is expected to exceed 600,000 by 2030, 700,000 by 2035 and one million by 2047, the report added.

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