Israel’s Defense Minister Naftali Bennett approved on Wednesday the creation of seven new nature reserves in the Shomron.
This is the first time that new nature reserves have been declared in the disputed territories since Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian Authority in 1993. Bennett’s office said in a statement that the plan was put off for years because the government previously refused to authorize it.
The locations for the seven new nature reserves—all located in Area C, areas of Yehuda and Shomron fully controlled by Israel—are the Ariel Cave, Wadi Og, Wadi Malha, the Southern Jordan River, Bitronot Creek, Nahal Tirza and Rotem-Maskiot in the Arvot Hayarden area.
The Israel Nature and Parks Authority will oversee the opening of the new sites, and 12 existing reserves will also be expanded. Bennett’s office said the Palestinian Authority will be notified about the changes.
It is unclear whether the nature reserves would be open to Palestinian residents as well.
“Today, we’re giving a great boost to the Land of Israel and continuing to develop Jewish settlement in Area C through actions, not words,” said Bennett.
“There are nature sites with stunning landscapes in Yehuda and Shomron,” he added. “We’ll expand the existing ones and also develop new sites. I invite all Israelis to get up and roam through the land, come to Yehuda and Shomron, hike, discover and continue the Zionist enterprise.”