Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit announced Tuesday that he is working towards the establishment of a new Arab city in Israel. "I am advancing the city's establishment and planning," he said.

Speaking in the Israeli Arab city of Umm El-Fahm, Sheetrit said, "The plan is for a modern city in which every couple will be able to buy a house and live, just like in every other modern city in the world," he explained.  Umm El-Fahm and the surrounding Wadi Ara region is the largest Arab concentration, in terms of territory and population, in pre-1967 Israel.

Although the Minister refused to say where the new city would be located, a source in Housing Minister's bureau told Ynet that the city is planned for construction in the Galilee.

Minister of Science, Culture and Sport Raleb Majadle (Labor) welcomed the announcement and said "the present government has internalized the fact that the Arab population has equal rights. The decision will strengthen the Arab sector's feeling of belonging to the country in which it has lived for many centuries."

MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) said that it is "weird" that the government which delays and halts construction in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, now comes up with the idea of constructing an Arab city in the Galilee.

Dror Ezra, a leading member of the environmentalist "Greens" group, said that his organization objects in principle to the creation of new communities, and that the Interior Minister should upgrade existing communities.

Israeli Arab leaders have been calling for a new Arab city for years. They claim the Arab villages in Wadi Ara and elsewhere are suffering from overpopulation, and that the Arab communities need a new city that would be designed specifically for their population.

Sheikh Hashem Abdel-Rachman threatened to resign his post as mayor of Umm el Fahm if demolitions of illegal construction are not halted. "I want you to relay this message to the Prime Minister and the rest of the government," he told Public Security Minister Avi Dichter in a recent meeting.  

MK Taleb a-Sana (Ra'am / Ta'al) said the creation of an Arab city was a good decision. He said it could be a precedent-setting step towards providing solutions for the Arab sector's real estate distress.