Part of the Negev? Kiryat Arba
Part of the Negev? Kiryat ArbaFlash 90

The bill to amend the Negev Development Authority Law, proposed by MK Limor Son-Har Melech (Otzma Yehudit) passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset.

52 MKs supported the bill, including opposition MKs Sharren Haskel and Zeev Elkin (New Hope), 37 opposed, and none abstained.

In 1991, the Knesset passed the Negev Law which legally defines the Negev as everything south of the 115th parallel on the old Israeli grid system. Within that area are the communities of southern Hebron Hills and the town of Kiryat Arba. Several years ago it was decided to remove the communities in Judea from the legally recognized Negev, despite the fact that they are south of the 115th parallel, are in the periphery, and have similar attributes to the other communities in the Negev.

During the debate in the Knesset, MK Son-Har Melech explained the reasoning behind the amendment: "We are about to vote on an important law. A law that would stop the years-old discrimination and injustice against settlers. The original Negev Development Authority Law which was passed in 1991 includes the communities of southern Hebron Hills and the town of Kiryat Arba. However, a few years ago, an arbitrary and biased decision was made to exclude the communities of southern Mount Hebron and the town of Kiryat Arba from the law."

She continued to explain: "The area south of the 115th parallel in Judea and Samaria is also the periphery which contends with the same challenges as the other areas of the Negev do. If there's an area that's considered the Negev, there is no reason it should be discriminated against because it's in Judea and Samaria. With the will for equality and to refrain from discrimination, we ask to restore the situation to be as it was when the original law was passed."

According to her, there is a trend of dividing between the residents of Judea and Samaria and those of the rest of the country, but Israeli law does not do so when it comes to their obligations: "An Israeli citizen in Judea and Samaria must pay taxes, serve in the military, pay sales tax in the supermarket, and pay property tax. The full obligations, but the rights - not so much. Because of this do we have to discriminate against Negev residents who live in Judea and Samaria? Do the residents of Kiryat Arba, Susiya, and Havot Yair live any less in the Negev than the others?"

Opposition leader MK Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) attacked the bill: "Kiryat Arba is not in the Negev. In the end, there is one budget. For years they've been robbing the periphery and today, they're turning into law. The Negev is the Negev, Judea and Samaria is Judea and Samaria, and the Galilee is the Galilee. Don't make up geography that doesn't exist. A government ministry has a budget, and that's the only budget it has. When you divide it up between more places the budget gets smaller. You are stealing funds from Netivot, Ofakim, and Kiryat Shmona. For 50 years the settlements have been stealing funds from the periphery and the Likud is silent."