Ha'aretz, Monday, October 28, 2002
Jewish Agency readies plan to foster a `Zionist majority'
By Yair Sheleg

The Jewish Agency is planning a multi-year program to encourage 200,000
people to move to the Galilee and another 150,000 to move to the Negev, and
has thereby recast itself as concerned with guaranteeing a "Zionist
majority" in those areas.

The plan will be presented today by the agency treasurer Shai Hermesh, a
former head of the Sha'ar Hanegev Regional Council, to the agency's board
of governors. Last week the government approved part of the plan, deciding
the World Zionist Organization's Settlement Division should establish 14
new settlements in the Negev, from south of Hebron to the Halutza dunes.
Since the late 1970s, the settlement division has only worked beyond the
Green Line, serving the pro-settlement policies of various governments.

Hermesh says the reason for the Negev plan is "to get around the problem
that the government must act on behalf of all citizens of the State of
Israel while the WZO is entitled to act for the sake of the Jewish people."
He said he hopes the government grants the WZO's settlement division the
same authority for the Galilee that it gave last week for the Negev

"But we won't wait for the government on this and will act on our own
initiative to help existing settlements both in Galilee and the Negev,"
Hermesh said. A key innovation in the program is to help settlements with a
"Zionist majority," meaning not necessarily only Jews, but settlements
where the majority of residents "have shown their commitment to the state"
through measures, for example, such as serving in the army.

"We'll enlist the support of Jewish communities around the world for the
benefit of non-Jews who have shown their commitment to the state, including
the Druze and those in the Bedouin community who have shared the security

Hermesh also plans new funding for colleges in the Galilee and the Negev,
particularly for dormitories, which he called "bottlenecks" in the growth
of the regional colleges.

Jerusalem Post, Sunday, October 27, 2002
Jewish Agency to unveil plan for Zionist majority in Galilee, Negev

A new initiative aimed at achieving a Zionist majority in the Galilee and
the Negev is due to be outlined Monday by Jewish Agency Treasurer Shai
Hermesh at the Agency's Board of Governors meeting, which opened in
Jerusalem Sunday night.

Although the Board of Governors comprises 120 members from Israel and
abroad, some 200 Jewish leaders including campaign and federation chairmen
are attending. This is the third of three meetings held annually by the
Board of Governors.

The new initiative calls for a partnership between the Agency's Settlement
Department, the Israeli government, local authorities, the private sector
and world Jewry with a view to strengthening rural communities,
particularly those bordering the Negev and the Galilee. It also calls for
building institutions of higher learning that will attract new populations
to these areas and expanding relationships with Jews around the globe.

The long-term program aims to improve conditions for some 50 communities in
these areas and to increase the population in the Galilee by 200,000
residents and that of the Negev by 150,000 residents by 2010. The
improvement program is not geared solely to Jews, but also for Beduin and
Druse communities.

Other aspects of the Board of Governors meeting include a session of the
joint Israel Government-Jewish Agency Coordinating Commission expected to
discuss increased immigration from Argentina and France deriving from both
economic distress and anti-Semitism, Jewish Agency operations in the former
Soviet Union, Israel Emergency Campaigns in Diaspora Jewish communities,
and enhanced cooperation between Israel and Jews abroad.

Also on the itinerary are another event marking the 100th anniversary of
the Jewish National Fund.