Government to approve NIS 1 billion Golan Heights development plan on Sunday

Government ministers will hold their weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday at a kibbutz in the Golan Heights, where they will approve a NIS 1 billion ($ 317 million) development plan to encourage population growth in the strategic area in the years to come.

The goal of the plan, formulated by a team led by the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Yair Pines, is to increase the population of the Golan Regional Council and Katzrin Local Council in 2022-2025.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett announced the plan in October, saying the ultimate goal was to reach 100,000 residents in the coming years.

Currently, some 53,000 people live in the Golan Heights: 27,000 Jews, 24,000 Druze and some 2,000 Alawites (an ethnoreligious group originating from Shia Islam and a minority sect to which the Syrian ruling family, the Assads, belongs) .

Describing the Golan Heights as a “strategic objective”, Bennett said the objective was “to double and then to double again the number of people in the Golan Heights”.

Sunday’s meeting will be held in Mevo Hama in the Golan Heights. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, all ministers present will have to undergo a rapid COVID-19 antigen test before entering the cabinet meeting.

The government’s plan aims to modernize infrastructure, establish new communities and neighborhoods and create 2,000 new jobs by making the region “the renewable energy technology capital of Israel,” state broadcaster Kan reported.

The proposal involves a number of agricultural technology projects, according to the report, including agro-voltaic projects where photovoltaic (photovoltaic) panels, also known as solar panels, are mounted on cultivated fields to facilitate crop growth and produce electricity at the same time.

Some 576 million shekels ($ 183 million) will be allocated for housing planning: about 3,300 new homes in Katzrin and another 4,000 in the Golan Regional Council, within five years.

View of the city of Neve Ativ, on the Golan Heights. (Moshe Shai / Flash90)

Two new premises – Asif and Matar – are to be built in the area, each with around 2,000 homes, according to the report.

An additional 160 million shekels ($ 51 million) must be invested in infrastructure and transport to improve the quality of life in the Golan Heights.

But some residents of the Golan Heights are expected to oppose parts of the plan. Opposition from environmental organizations is also expected over the possible impacts that further development could have on the environment and wildlife in the region.

In 2019, former United States President Donald Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the strategic plateau, which Israel captured from Syria in the Six Day War of 1967 and later annexed in a no-go movement. recognized by the international community at large. A new city, named Trump Heights, was then inaugurated on the Golan Heights to honor the decision of the US president.

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