Israel's National Council for Building and Planning on Tuesday approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's initiative to establish a new Druze town in the north of the country.
The town will be established in the Lower Galilee Regional Council, next to Tiberias in the Naftaly Estate area, which is south of the Karnei Hittin National Park and north of the Golani industrial zone and Route 77.
According to Netanyahu, this will be the first new Druze town to be built by the state since 1948. Additionally, this will be the first time in 130 years that a new Druze community will be established in the territory of what is now Israel.
There are currently 18 Druze towns recognized by the state – four in the Golan and 14 in the Galilee.
The Steering Committee of the National Council for Building and Planning took the decision two months ago to establish the Druze town, with the support of the heads of the Druze authorities and Druze religious councils, as well as the backing of MK Ayoob Kara, who is the deputy minister for the development of the Druze and Circassian sectors.
The National Council's housing commission, headed up by Avigdor Yitzhaki, explained that the town will be established as a community settlement that will initially consist of 400 housing units. Over the long term, the town will be able to expand gradually.
The National Council also confirmed that 10 different possible locations for the new town had been considered, and that Naftaly Estate was considered the most suitable because of its location by Tiberias and its proximity to existing infrastructure and a network of national roads. Additionally, it was found that the building of the new town would not have any impact on the nearby Karnei Hittin National Park.
Most existing Druze towns were built on mountainsides, meaning that they suffer from planning restrictions due to their proximity to nature reserves. As a result, the new town will be established near urban infrastructure on ground that is suitable for development and close to areas where there are employment opportunities.
In a statement regarding the approved plan, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "For the first time since the founding of the state a new Druze town will be established. I view the building of this new town as a very important initiative that will bring progress to the Druze sector."