By Alexander J. Apfel/TPS
The National Council approved a suggestion to construct a new community for the Druze in Israel on Tuesday morning, January 5. The initiative has been greatly supported by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu since November 2012 when a decision was taken to establish such a community.
The town, the first of its kind since the state of Israel was founded, is to be established in the Lower Galilee near the northern city of Tiberias. The initiative is part of what Netanyahu has described as the country’s obligation to the ethnic minority.
“For the first time since the founding of the state, we are creating a new Druze village. This is of paramount importance in advancing the Druze sector,” said Netanyahu, adding that the establishment of the community is intended to help close the economic gaps between Druze and non-Druze communities in Israel.
“It is part of the many government actions to promote the Druze population.”
The prime minister delineated the various disadvantages which stem from the fact that many Druze villages are located next to nature reserves or on hillsides, and are therefore adversely affected by planning limitations. To that end, Netanyahu said, the new community will be built in a way that is more conducive for employment and infrastructure.
“The new community will be created in a rural area with adequate infrastructure, on soil suitable for development and near employment areas. The community will thus be more modern and will help advance the Druze population socially and economically,” Netanyahu said.
The Israeli prime minister also praised the Druze community, approximately 130,000 strong, for establishing its roots in Israel and for its contribution in the military. “The Druze ethnic group has attached its destiny to the state of Israel. Among the many ethnic groups who draft into the IDF, Druze are among the highest and many of them draft into combat forces.”
Netanyahu further promised that his government would embark upon additional efforts to improve the lives of the community. “This is only one part of the wide array of initiatives we intend to undertake for the Druze community and we are implementing our obligations to this ethnic group.’’
The Israeli Druze population is an ethnic minority group of Arab descent and was officially recognized by the Israeli state as a distinct ethnic minority in 1957. They contribute in many fields in Israel including in the army, the police force and in politics.
Colonel Ghassan Alian, a Druze in the Golani brigade, drew much media attention after he was injured during Operation Protective Edge in 2014 but insisted that he return to battle.
“Even if I have to walk there, I will go back to Gaza. The division is currently continuing in its main mission: to uncover the tunnels and destroy as many terrorists as possible,’’ he was quoted as saying to Ynet News.
Michael Bachner also contributed to this report.