Yaakov LItzman scraps plan for new haredi city in northern Negev

Housing Min. Litzman scraps plan for new haredi city - after government invested tens of millions in planning.

Arutz Sheva Staff ,

Yakov Litzman
Yakov Litzman
Yehonatan Welcer, TPS

Construction and Housing Minister Yaakov LItzman (UTJ) has scrapped a plan to construct a new haredi city in the northern Negev, Calcalist reported.

The new city, Kasif, would have been built along Route 31, north of the Bedouin town of Kuseife and west of Arad.

Senior government officials told Calcalist that haredim, and especially Litzman, did not see Kasif as an appropriate solution for the sector's housing crisis, since it is too far away from other municipal centers. However, despite their rejection of the plan, money is still being transferred to fund the project, which was expected to cost approximately 30 million shekel, over half of which has already been paid.

The idea for Kasif was born in 2007, and the location was chosen because it is State-owned land with no claims of ownership by local Bedouin. In 2013, the Housing Ministry ordered that construction of the town be advanced, but that its population be delayed until proper permits were received.

In 2016, the Housing Ministry published a strategic plan for the town's housing, but noted that "there is great doubt regarding whether the town will be appropriate for the haredi population." In 2017, then-Housing Minister Yoav Galant (Likud) said that as long as it depended on him, Kasif would be founded, even if it does not serve as a haredi town, as originally planned. Galant stressed that the town's founding was important "in order to strengthen our hold in the entire Arad valley area."

In 2015, a letter sent to the Ministry and seen by Calcalist noted that the construction of Kasif cannot be approved without a clear decision from the government. However, despite this, plans for the city had already developed to the level of mapping neighborhoods and cities.

Meanwhile, the Construction and Housing Ministry is increasing the resources allocated for the development of a new haredi city west of Kiryat Gat, on land which currently belongs to the Shafir Regional Council.

The Housing Ministry told Calcalist: "In the government's Decision 877, it was clearly written that "processes for the founding of a new town in the Negev - Kasif - should continue." In accordance with that, the Housing Ministry, together with all of the ministries, has worked to complete the necessary processes, including working to advance the plan while the Finance Ministry formulated its opinion."

"A government office does not require government approval before it begins the work of planning. Thorough planning has been done by the Ministry each year, as part of the annual work plan, and based on the approval of the plan by the Israel Land Authority.

"There is no reason, from the perspective of the planning authorities and institutions, to advance the planning of Kasif, in light of the two government decisions and in light of the approval of the recommendation of the National Government Council for Founding Towns. Obviously, the plans are dependent on a third and final decision by the government to approve the founding of Kasif."