Settlements in Western NegevThe development of at least 20 new settlements in the western Negev is underway to replace the settlements Israel is leaving behind in the Sinai as part of the Camp David agreements with Egypt.

According to Menahem Perlmutter, director of engineering for the Negev and Sinai in the Jewish Agency’s Settlement’s Department, the western Negev is similar to the northern Sinai area in its warm climate and sandy earth and, therefore, is fit for the development of winter agriculture. The basic items to be grown, he said, are tomatoes, flowers and mangos.

Perlmutter, who was here as guest of the Jewish National Fund (JNF), said that the establishment of the 20 new settlements in the western Negev is a joint project of the JNF and the Jewish Agency, with the JNF preparing the infrastructure for the new settlements. Three of the settlements will be kibbutzim and the rest moshavim, Perlmutter said.

He said that the first settlers have already moved into six moshavim and two kibbutzim in the western Negev. He listed the moshavim as Yesodot Hadarom, Yated, Pri Gan, Yevul, Dekel and Talmai Yafa and the Kibbutzim as Suffa and Holit. These settlements have already 160 families, Perlmutter said, adding that 120 additional families will move to these settlements within the next three months.

According to Perlmutter, the total cost of relocating one family from northern Sinai to the western Negev is about $100,000. He said that when the project is completed in the next few years the population of the western Negev will be close to 65,000.