There is no shortage of land in Israel, according to Shlomo Ben-Eliyahu, director general of the Agriculture Ministry. “From Be’er Sheva northward, only 17 percent of the land in Israel has been developed for construction,” he said at a conference on development in Eilat. The state can afford to be a little looser in its policies on releasing land for construction, a move that would allow for more housing construction and relief of housing prices, he said.
Other issues in increasing the level of construction includes supplying the newly built areas with water, said Ben-Eliyahu – but with Israel’s capacity to desalinate water, supplying water for newly built areas will not be a problem. “Based on a long-term strategy, a lack of water will not be a problem,” he said at the conference. “We can always desalinate more seawater. The only question is how much will that water cost.”
Also speaking at the conference was Danny Attar, chairperson of the JNF. “Our policy has been to support settlement in the periphery,” he said. “We do this on a regular basis and by building on this basis, we have saved thousands of shekels for young couples who come to the Negev and Galil. We have set aside NIS 400 million for projects in the north. Our objective is to give maximum support to towns in the periphery in order to increase the number of residents and make things easier for them.”