An Interior Ministry panel has suggested establishing a new city in Shomron, a move that will save the state tens of millions of shekels. The new city will be made up of four towns which are currently considered local authorities — Elkana, Oranit, Shaare Tikvah and Etz Efraim — and which together would have a population of 22,000.
In order for a town (considered a local authority) to become a city, it needs to have at least 20,000 residents. There are currently several cities in Yehudah and Shomron, including Ariel, Maale Adumim, Beitar Illit, and the largest, Modi’in Illit (Kiryat Sefer). The still-unnamed entity would be the fifth city in the region, the first new city in Yehudah and Shomron in 20 years. The four communities are located adjacent to the 1967 ceasefire line (the “Green Line”), with portions of Oranit actually located in pre-1967 Israel.
According to the panel, it “carefully considered the conditions and decided to unanimously act to unite these local authorities into a single jurisdiction.” The move will save the state as much as NIS 100 million in administrative costs, as there would be one local government for the state to fund instead of four. In addition, the move will “enable the development of western Shomron in the most efficient manner possible. The city will be a very important one, located five minutes from Road 6,” the main north-south highway serving central Israel.
Ministers and MKs on the right praised the plan. Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely said that the recommendations were “a clear statement that settlement in Shomron is strengthening. This will entail a major investment, but will also save the government a great deal of money.” Knesset Speaker MK Yuli Edelstein said that “the new city will provide an important housing solution for young families seeking an affordable home in the center of the country. The fact that the city will be located in Shomron makes it strategically important.” Welfare Minister Chaim Katz said that “the timing of this decision is very important. It is a major milestone for the settlement movement and for the country.”
Spokespersons on the left were not as enthusiastic. Commenting on the announcement, radical far-left Arab rights group Adallah said that “expanding the jurisdiction of these settlements means another robbery of the lands and resources of the local population, who are protected by the Geneva Convention and other international agreements.”