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Knesset advances bill to define Judea townships as part of Negev

Bill would allow the townships, some of the poorest in Israel, to receive extra funding from the government.

The Zin Valley in the Negev Desert of Israel, as seen from the grave of David Ben-Gurion at Midreshet Ben-Gurion. Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.
The Zin Valley in the Negev Desert of Israel, as seen from the grave of David Ben-Gurion at Midreshet Ben-Gurion. Credit: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

In a preliminary reading, the Knesset on Wednesday advanced a bill that would redefine the southernmost region of Judea as part of Israel’s Negev region, allowing the townships in the area, some of the poorest in Israel, to receive extra funding from the government.

The proposed legislation, if it passes subsequent readings, will make Kiryat Arba and the communities within the Mount Hebron Regional Council eligible for funding from the Negev Development Authority. Proponents of the bill argue that this will rectify what they describe as “years of discrimination and injustice against the residents.” The preliminary vote passed with 52 MKs in favor and 37 against.

Otzma Yehudit MK Limor Son Har-Melech, a vocal supporter of the bill, noted the exclusion of these towns from the Negev Development Authority’s support since the early 1990s. “The challenges of life in the periphery also apply to these communities,” Har-Melech stated. “There is no reason for these communities to be discriminated against just because they are in Judea and Samaria,” she added.

Opposition Leader Yair Lapid criticized the measure, asserting that it distorts geographical and political realities. “The Negev is the Negev, Judea, and Samaria is Judea and Samaria. Don’t invent a geography that doesn’t exist,” Lapid said.

He further accused the bill’s proponents of diverting funds intended for towns impacted by the Gaza conflict and the fighting in the North. “The settlements have been stealing money from periphery communities for 50 years, and the Likud Party has been silent,” Lapid charged.

The next steps for the bill include further readings in the plenum as well as by Knesset committees and potential amendments before it can become law. Proponents are optimistic about its passage. 

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