Planning gone awry

                               By Zafrir Rinat

                               One of the fundamental distortions in Israeli life over the past three
                               decades has been the continued planning and construction of
                               communities whose primary goal has not been to provide housing
                               solutions but rather to block the expansion of the Arab population and
                               the construction designed for that population. The planning and
                               construction of those communities have been carried out as if Israel
                               were dealing with a perpetual demographic threat rather than with its
                               very own citizens.This is essentially the rationale behind the mitzpim in
                               the Galilee, the string of tiny villages along the length of the Green Line
                               in Western Samaria, and behind other isolated Jewish communities in
                               various parts of the country.

                               It now appears that the disturbances in Israeli Arab communities have
                               given a new, reinforced legitimacy to the multitude of programs
                               designed to bolster the Jewish presence in certain areas - programs in
                               which considerable time and energy have been invested over the past
                               few years in government ministries and in offices of regional councils
                               and the Jewish Agency for Israel.

                               In the Misgav region in the Galilee, strengthening the Jewish
                               population is a recurrent theme. Plans to achieve this are constantly on
                               the lips of the staff members of the regional council, which was set up,
                               as pointed out by Professor Oren Yiftahel of Ben-Gurion University
                               of the Negev, to put into practice the principle of "maximum land,
                               minimum Arabs." Even before the outbreak of the disturbances, the
                               authorities in the region decided to establish a small village that would
                               be adjacent to the boundaries of the Arab town of Sakhnin and that
                               would occupy land intended for the use of both Jews and Arabs.

                               Planners attached to the Interior Ministry's northern district office
                               have started talking about the paving of bypass highways in the
                               Galilee so that the residents of the Jewish communities there can live
                               in safety - far from their Arab neighbors. Recently, discussions have
                               been held on a major eastward expansion of Upper Nazareth as part
                               of the overall program to strengthen the Jewish presence in the area.
                               In this overall program, Upper Nazareth and Carmiel are perceived
                               as an effective response to the Arab demographic "threat."

                               These plans dovetail with previous programs for the establishment of
                               a string of communities along the ridge of the Judean Hills within the
                               Green Line, and for the westward expansion of Jerusalem as an
                               attempt to restore equilibrium to the "demographic balance of power"
                               (between Jews and Arabs in that city).

                               All these plans are grossly out of step with the democratic principle of
                               equality, which has not yet been internalized by the staff members of
                               government ministries or by the officials responsible for the
                               establishment of new communities. The programs, which allow
                               individuals with good connections to receive generous tracts of land
                               on which they can begin producing fine cheeses, are intended to
                               protect state lands from an "Arab invasion," while Bedouin shepherds
                               who used to graze their flocks on these lands are denied access to
                               even the most basic services. Finally, these programs kept Arabs
                               from becoming residents in any of the communities created. In Katzir,
                               it took a High Court of Justice ruling, handed down following an
                               appeal by an Israeli Arab citizen, to change the situation.

                               What makes this state of affairs even more serious is the fact that
                               these plans will certainly fan the flames of frustration among Israeli
                               Arabs, for whom the allocation and use of available land is a major

                               It should be pointed out some of the country's central planners
                               understand the problematic character of construction and planning
                               programs designed exclusively for Israel's Jewish population and have
                               tried to advance various principles in regional plans. For example, the
                               document outlining the plans for the Metropolitan Haifa area notes the
                               following with regard to the transfer of Jewish residents to northern
                               Israel: "It is essential that the absorption of Jewish residents who have
                               migrated from the central part of the country not be at the expense of
                               development plans for the Arab population of the Metropolitan Haifa
                               area. Similarly, in the various planning stages for the entire region,
                               priority should be given, if at all possible, to the development of the
                               region's Arab communities in order to reduce the potential for tension
                               within Israel's Arab population."

                               These statements were written more than a year before the start of the
                               present disturbances.

                               The overall plan of "Judaizing the land" as it has been implemented
                               over the past few years has an additional aspect: It also has a
                               devastating impact on the environment.

                               Essentially, this overall plan constitutes a gross and systematic
                               violation of the principles of planning that have crystallized over the
                               past number of years in Israel. These principles call for promoting
                               "saturation construction" in urban areas and for avoiding the
                               establishment of new communities, the goal being to preserve the
                               existing reserves of open expanses and to prevent the costly scattering
                               of infrastructures.

                               The string of communities along the Green Line and the mitzpim in the
                               Galilee have a natural tendency to "gobble up" land. Over the years,
                               they will expand further and will generate both additional development
                               and the paving of new highways. This statement can also be applied
                               to isolated tracts of land granted to individuals. Although the damage
                               caused by these tracts is less severe, it is still substantial. One such
                               "ranch" was created in the Galilee four years ago on land that was
                               originally slated to be a nature reserve. There were plans for the
                               establishment of additional isolated communities of this kind; however,
                               in the wake of an appeal by the Greens to the High Court two years
                               ago, the feverish activity of both government agencies and the Jewish
                               Agency on this project has ground to a halt.

                               Even if there were any justification for the establishment of a few small
                               villages in the Galilee or the Negev, there is certainly no justification
                               for the widespread distribution of Jewish communities throughout the
                               Galilee to block the expansion of the Arab population or for the
                               creation of "bedroom suburb" communities in central Israel to serve as
                               "buffer zones" between Arab communities on the Israeli side of the
                               Green Line and Palestinian communities on the other side.

                               Instead, there should be intelligent, humane planning that also takes
                               into account the needs of Israel's Arab population and which
                               proposes a comprehensive, rather than a selective, improvement of
                               conditions. This kind of approach would also have a demographic
                               advantage in the human sense of the term because improvement in the
                               fields of employment and education is generally the key factor in the
                               reduction of natural increase and is the solution to poverty and social