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Housing Minister: Spread of Arab population must be stopped

By Guy Lieberman, Haaretz Correspondent haaretz

Article on Ha’aretz

Housing Minister Ariel Atias on Thursday warned against the spread of Arab population into various parts of Israel, saying that preventing this phenomenon was no less than a national responsibility.

“I see [it] as a national duty to prevent the spread of a population that, to say the least, does not love the state of Israel,” Atias told a conference of the Israel Bar Association, which focused on a reforming Israel’s Land Administration.

The Shas minister referred to Harish, a housing project built for the Haredi community in northern Israel, saying that the Arab population from the nearby Wadi Ara was spreading into the Harish area.


Atias went on to address the issue of the Galilee, saying that “if we go on like we have until now, we will lose the Galilee. Populations that should not mix are spreading there. I don’t think that it is appropriate [for them] to live together.”

“Look at what happened in Acre,” Atias continued, referring to violent protests that broke out on the Eve of Yom Kippur last year over Jewish-Arab tensions in the mixed town.

“The mayor of Acre visited me yesterday for three hours and asked me how his town could be saved,” Atias said. “He told me ‘bring a bunch of Haredis and we’ll save the city, even if I lose my political standing.’ He told me that Arabs are living in Jewish buildings and running them out.”

Atias argued that lands should be marketed to each sector separately, in order to create segregation, not just between Jews and Arabs but also between other sectors, such as ultra-Orthodox and secular Jews. “There is a severe housing crisis among the young ultra-Orthodox couples, and in the general population. I, as an ultra-Orthodox Jew, don’t think that religious Jews should have to live in the same neighborhood as secular couples, so as to avoid unnecessary friction. And since some 5,000 to 6,000 religious couples get married every year, a problem arises because they require a certain kind of community life that goes along with their lifestyle.”

The housing minister went on to say that the problem stemmed from faulty handling of land within the Land Administration and the Housing Ministry, among other reasons. “Today there is a serious housing crisis facing all the young couples in Israel, in part because of the limited appropriation of land in recent years in the Lands Administration and the Housing Ministry, and also due to faulty decision making which resulted from the high turnover of ministers over the last decade ? 8 ministers have held the office of Housing minister in the last decade and the Land Administration wasn?t under the ministry’s authority for part of the time.”

According to Atias, the solution he is spearheading is to flood the market with available land for housing construction. Atias explained that a team of planners has already begun working on the project. “I plan to market large amounts of land to the Arab population in the Galilee in order to solve their problems, as well as land for secular and religious Jews,” he said.

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