One of the main arguments that the British Mandate authorities used to deny mass immigration of Jews was that there was not enough land to sustain a significant population. Indeed, one of the common theories was that “there isn’t enough room to swing a cat”( hardly said by a pet lover) in all of the mandate, This was the majority opinion back in the mid-1930s when Jews were attempting to flee Nazi Germany and indeed, most of central and Eastern Europe. The population of the entire region west of the Jordan River (including the Gaza Strip, pre-1967 Israel, and all of Yehudah and Shomron) doesn’t equal a third of Israel’s present population.
The statistics show that at present there are a bit more than eight million Israelis living in all that land (except for the Gaza Strip) and the density of that number of people is highly concentrated along the coastal strip and the center of the country-it’s narrowest part between the liberated territories of Yehudah and Shomron and the Mediterranean Sea. One merely has to drive anywhere along the southern approaches to Tel Aviv and its suburbs to evidence the crowding and huge traffic problems. There are as many as two million people, or more, living in this narrow space.
This makes housing prices sky high, the availability of open spaces becomes less and less and along with the desirability of living close to the country’s cultural and industrial hub also makes the demand for affordable housing rise rapidly. After all, just like the USA, everyone would love to live in New York City or Los Angeles.
What is needed is a program to solve this problem and I would like to present some ideas:
- There are tens of thousands of acres of open land suitable for massive housing on state lands in Yehudah and Shomron. Demographics notwithstanding, moving a million Israeli Jews into this area would make the possibility of the creation of another Gaza like ” Hamastan” impossible and alleviate the overcrowding in the country’s center.
- The Galilee must remain a green and open space for agriculture as it contains the largest concentration of wetland in the country. Furthermore, the Galilee also has the single largest concentration of Israeli Arabs who, for the most part, are quite content to remain as they are, where they are, with all the benefits of Israeli citizenship and living among and alongside their Jewish neighbors. This has created a welcome sense of mutual understanding and many varied and joint projects. Indeed, the Western Galilee region, known as Misgav, has brought about 34 separate communities, several of them all Arab and Beduin, for the mutual benefit of all its inhabitants. Sure, there are those Arabs who are angry and discontented with their situation but all the polls have demonstrated that a significant minority would not opt for abandoning their Israeli citizenship.
- The Negev has a significant Beduin population that must adjust to the new century and give way for the expansion of the IDF bases that will need to leave the center of the country in order to have the space needed for training and maneuvers. Cities such as Rahat have been built for the Beduin in the region. Beersheva has become a growing metropolis and the expansion of its suburbs is a vital part of the rejuvenation of the region. However, the desert is not for everyone and until there is significant available mass transit to connect all the cities in the Negev, I don’t envision many people moving southwards.
- The expansion of the present rail lines into Yehudah and Shomron, with the investment of both public and private capital, is not beyond reason. The rail line from Jerusalem could be extended eastwards to join all the communities in the region and public bus transportation could be expanded as it has accomplished since the building of Jewish communities in the liberated territories.
- Incentives for construction firms, such as tax breaks, and the mass participation of government and private private funded development for industry and tourism should be created. Employment in fields such as hi-tech, intensive agriculture and university related fields of research could be expanded with investment from within Israel and abroad.
- It is time to face the reality that a Two-State Solution ( a misnomer for the Arab version of the Final Solution) is a dead end. Ever since the partition resolution of Nov. 27, 1947 that gave international recognition to this ersatz issue, the Arabs have rejected it by warfare and terrorism. They have proven time and again that their aim is the destruction of the State of Israel by any means possible. While warfare and terror haven’t achieved their bloodthirsty goals, they have adopted the tools of boycott and de-legitimization in the attempt to isolate Israel and diplomatically make her existence untenable until they feel the time is ripe to wage war on a weakened and politically challenged Jewish state.
- Demographically, the movement of a million Israeli Jews through the use of financial incentives, the structure of mass transit and the opening of vast territory, will make the Jewish state more secure and geographically firmer into the land that, is in reality, part of the Jewish homeland regardless of international dogma, anti-Semites and Arab opposition. Oddly enough, the application of Israeli law to all the liberated territories and the dissolution of the “Palestinian Authority” might even be seen as removing a millstone from the necks of those Arab states that have, all but publicly, washed their hands of the so-called “Palestinians”.
- Those Arabs in Yehudah and Shomron who wish to live in peace and harmony, just as the majority of Israeli Arabs do today, may remain and those who wish to become Israeli citizens should be able to do so. Of course, thousands will choose to emigrate and compensation would be given them as it was to those who requested it after the 1948-1949 War of Independence to those who remained within Israel’s 1949 armistice lines.
- By having a million Israelis move into new homes throughout the land of Israel we could alleviate the overcrowding in the nation’s center, provide affordable housing and land for industry and commerce. We would cement our ties to the 22% of the old mandate region that was, by international law, recognized as the Jewish patrimony not withstanding the political mythology of a “Palestinian people.”
- Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the State of Israel said during his first visit to the homeland in 1907-” A state cannot be created by decree, but by the forces of a people. But if the Jewish people will go build the land, the Jewish state will become a reality.” It is time to continue building our state in all the land of Israel left to us.