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Israel to build Jewish communities in Negev on Bedouin-claimed land

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel will demolish unauthorized Bedouin villages in the Negev Desert and replace them with newly built religious Jewish communities.

The Cabinet approved the demolition and construction at a special Cabinet session on Sunday in Sde Boker in the Negev. The meeting at the Ben-Gurion Heritage Institute marked the 40th anniversary of the death of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister.

The community of Hiran will be established on the site of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which was established in 1956 and is home to 500 families. Its 2,500 housing units will be marketed to the national religious community as well as to secular families living in the nearby community of Meitar, according to Haaretz.

Kassif, another newly approved city, will include 12,000 housing units and be marketed to the haredi Orthodox community.

The demolition of Umm al-Hiran under the Prawer plan, which would destroy unrecognized Bedouin communities and relocate the residents to planned communities, is the subject of an Israeli Supreme Court case that is scheduled to be heard next week, according to Haaretz.

The Cabinet also voted to build a Negev visitors’ center in Beersheva. The plans, which ultimately will include the expansion of railroads and highways and moving Israeli army bases to the South, will “expedite the development of the entire Negev,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the meeting.

Netanyahu noted that Ben-Gurion was keen on building up the Negev.

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