Golan Heights plan: 1 billion shekels for development, strengthening Israeli presence

Government announces massive budget aimed at doubling population of Golan Heights, transforming area into renewable energy capital of Israel.

By World Israel News Staff

The government held its weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday morning at Kibbutz Mevo Hama in the Golan Heights, as it approved some 1 billion shekels towards a plan aimed at increasing the area’s population and establishing it as an economic powerhouse for the Jewish State.

“We are making history in the Golan,” Prime Minister Naftali Bennett tweeted ahead of the vote. “We will authorize a historic plan to massively develop the Golan Heights that will bring many good people to this beautiful part of the country.”

Currently, the Golan has just 53,000 residents. Approximately half (around 25,000) are Jewish Israeli citizens.

The other half are Druze, some of whom are Israeli citizens and others who are classed as permanent residents.

A significant portion of the Druze refused to accept Israeli citizenship after the 1967 Six Day War, and continue to identify as Syrians. However, due to the ongoing conflict in Syria, a large number of Druze who declined Israeli citizenship for decades are now quietly obtaining it.

The distribution of Israel’s population has long posed a strategic challenge to the Jewish State. With career and educational opportunities largely centered in the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem districts, some 45 percent of Israelis live in the central Gush Dan area, which makes up just 8 percent of the state’s available land.

Residents of the peripheral southern and northern regions have complained of inferior infrastructure, medical care, education, and public transportation.

According to the government’s plan, the area is set to become the site of 2,000 new jobs. Kan News quoted an unnamed government minister of stating that the ultimate goal is to transform the Golan into “the capital of Israel’s renewable energy technologies.”

“Like any piece of land in the Land of Israel, the settlements in the Golan Heights are vital and need strengthening,” said Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana in a statement.

“To this end, we [endowed] the plan to strengthen the Golan Heights with a budget of about one billion shekels. The budget will be invested in improving the infrastructure, transportation, economy and quality of life of the northerners.”

“According to the government plan, settlement in the Golan will double within 5 years,” he added. “The Israeli government will allocate NIS 576 million for this purpose in favor of adding 7,300 new housing units. Two [new] localities, Asif and Matar will also be established.”

The plan also includes initiatives aimed at strengthening tourism in the region, such as a new scenic bike trail and incentives for developers to build hotels.

In June 2018, then-Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon backed a plan to quintuple the Jewish population in the Golan Heights. At the time, nothing came of the plan.