Local leaders raised criticism on Wednesday against a peace plan for the Middle East proposed by U.S. President Donald Trump, which suggests Israel should hand over lands in southern Israel to Palestinian hands as part of territorial exchanges.
Ramat HaNegev Regional Council head Eran Doron was shocked to discover Trump's peace plan includes the transfer of lands near which 200 families live mainly off agricultural crops.
"When they presented the map, I spotted some of my area of jurisdiction got taken away," said Doron. "No one spoke to me, neither before, nor after. Maybe now that the celebrations in Washington are over some will talk to me."
We say it simply – with all due respect to the preservation of the Jewish settlement in the West bank, not at the expanse of the Jewish settlement in the Negev."
Doron also sent out an official brief to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, expressing his discontent with the proposed peace plan.
"Unfortunately, I learned yesterday evening that in order to preserve Jewish settlement in the West Bank, you are willing to give up on the Jewish settlement in the Negev," read Doron's letter. "I invite you to come and get an impression of the pioneering Zionist settlement here before you agree to hand it over. I expect you to commit to protecting the Jewish settlement in the Negev at least as much as you are committed to protecting the Jewish settlement in the West Bank.
Some residents of southern communities affected by Trump's plan, who were evacuated from their homes in past territorial exchanges, also raised their concerns over the initiative.
"The Deal of the Century takes us, the evacuees of Kadesh Barnea, many years back," said Tzadok, a resident of the southern community, named after another community of the same name in the Sinai Peninsula that was handed over to Egypt following the Israeli withdrawal from the territory, as part of the peace agreement with the neighbor to the south.
"The first thing we looked for was a place where we can establish a community knowing that it is within Israeli territory and we won't get evacuated again. We were proven wrong, however. This plan wants to turn us into an enclave within a different country."
It's completely ludicrous and very insulting. Instead of further developing this area – they want to hand it over to the Gazans. Everybody knows what will follow after. It is insulting to treat an area of settlement like that. It could potentially house 1,500 households, but there's no chance for the area to develop if they handed it over and turn it into an enclave in 'the state of Hamas-tan'."
According to the maps published as part of the Trump plan, two areas on the Sinai border will be transferred to the Palestinians. One will be used as an industrial zone and a high-tech hub, while the more-southern area, will be used for housing and agriculture.
The Ramat HaNegev Regional Council is currently working on a plan to establish another locality on the site. Its economy is planned to depend on tourism in the area.