Plans for new Samarian city leaves left fuming

Left-wing figures fume after Interior Ministry announces plans for new city in Samaria

Tzvi Lev,

Peace Now activists and leader Yariv Oppenheimer (left) (file)
Peace Now activists and leader Yariv Oppenheimer (left) (file)
Flash 90

A new plan put forward by the Interior Ministry that would establish a new city in Samaria has received angry reactions from the Left.

On Wednesday, a special committee formed by the Director-General of the Interior Ministry called for the establishment of the fifth Israeli city in Judea and Samaria on Wednesday, following a half-year study on the proposed unification of four existing Israeli towns in western Samaria. The proposal would unite the towns of Elkana, Oranit, Shaarei Tikva, and Etz Ephraim into a single city.

According to former Peace Now head Yariv Oppenheimer, the plan would scuttle the possibility of a Palestinian Arab State being established. "We're talking about political tricks whose only purpose is to eliminate a potential agreement with the Palestinians," he told Arutz Sheva.

The anti-Zionist organization Adalah also fumed over the decision, saying that "expanding the jurisdictions of the communities tantamount to taking the assets of the local population protected by the Geneva Convention and other international laws".

The Levy Report showed that the Geneva Convention is not applicable to Judea and Samaria.

The towns to be affected include the predominantly secular town of Oranit, home to some 9,000 Israelis; Shaarei Tikva, and its 5,800 residents; the largely Religious Zionist town of Elkana, with some 4,000 residents, and Etz Efraim, with some 2,200 residents. Oranit and Elkana are both independent townships, while Etz Efraim and Shaarei Tikva are administered by the Samaria Regional Council.

If combined into a single city, the new municipality would be home to more than 21,000 people, making it the smallest city in Judea and Samaria.

At present, there are four Israeli cities in Judea and Samaria: Maaleh Adumim, with 38,000 residents, was recognized as a city in 1991; Ariel, east of Shaar Hashomron in Samaria with 22,000 residents was given city status in 1998; the predominantly haredi community of Beitar Illit in Judea, home to 52,000 people, was declared a city in 2001; and the haredi town of Modiin Illit in southwest Samaria, home to 67,000, was declared a city in 2008.

While the Interior Ministry has touted the plan as being to the benefit of the four communities, claiming that it will enable construction in hitherto unused land in between the existing municipal boundaries, residents are concerned the move could lower the quality of life in their close-knit towns.

Residents protested a similar proposal by the ministry in 2008, eventually forcing the Interior Ministry to back down from the planned unification.