The government on Sunday approved the plan to appoint an executives' committee to advance the establishment of an ultra-Orthodox city in the community of Harish in Wadi Ara.
Earlier Sunday, a few dozen residents from the Wadi Ara area blocked Route 65 intermittently in protest against the plan to expand the town of Harish without the safeguards stipulated b the National Planning and Building Board. Menashe Regional Council head Ilan Sadeh said, "We are worried that the building minister is trying to make a land grab and circumvent the national board's decision."
The decision to establish an executive committee for the promotion a haredi Harish was brought before the cabinet on Sunday. The bill itself makes no reference to the national board's decision that, after prolonged debates and opposition from the city's residents, stipulated that only 60,000 residents will be allowed to live in the town, and not the 150,000 residents planned by the Housing Ministry.
The expansion plan is being promoted by Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Housing Minister Ariel Atias, both from Shas.
After he learned of Minister Atias' intention to place the said proposal before the cabinet, Sadeh turned to the Labor Party cabinet ministers asking that they express reservations on the bill. Defense Minister Ehud Barak sent a letter to the cabinet secretary on the matter.
Barak wrote in the letter: "I am opposed to the establishment of a town according the proposed draft. I support promoting the preparation of a municipal project outline, detailed plans, and plans for implementation and statutory authorization within the bounds that were authorized by the National Planning and Building Board."
The National Building and Planning Board ruled in December that Harish will be expanded by another 1,000 dunam (about 247 acres) on which 50-60,000 residents will reside. The proposal currently on the cabinet's table states tht the committee will work to find long-term solutions "for the future growth of the town as a future, long-term solution for the housing shortage among the religious population."
In the section of the bill detailing the general background to the establishment of the city, not one word is written about the opposition and battles that accompanied the idea to turn Harish into a haredi town in which 150,000 residents will live.
Roni Sofer contributed to this report