Israel’s government cabinet on Sunday approved a 2013-2017 national Negev development plan worth approximately NIS 500 million, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Communication Office said in a statement.
The plan will be spread over five years and constitutes the civilian response to the IDF’s move to the Negev. The plan was formulated by an inter-ministerial committee led by Prime Minister’s Office Director General Harel Locker and Negev and Galilee Development Ministry Director General Orna Hosman-Bechor and is designed to advance the development of the Negev as part of preparations for moving IDF bases to the Negev. The expectation is that as a result of the move, by 2020, there will be a NIS 1.4-1.7 billion increase in economic activity in the Negev per annum, according to the government communique. At the start of the meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom presented the main points of the plan.
The plan includes extensive and significant investments in all areas of life, focuses on economic development, housing solutions, strengthening [local] authorities, developing high-tech and emphasizes quality of life for residents. The plan accelerates economic development by subsidizing industrial zones and the establishment of three new industrial parks, provides incentives for companies to relocate to the Negev by subsidizing the salaries of high-tech workers and budgets for training employees. Inter alia, the plan also specifies that an outline will be formulated for turning Be’er Sheva into a cyber center. Increasing the number of Negev residents who serve in IDF technological units will create an employment track for the Israeli ‘silicon valley’.
In Be’er Sheva, Dimona, Yerucham, Arad, Ofakim and the Merhavim Regional Council will be declared national priority communities and defined as target communities for the plan. In these aforesaid communities, unique plans will be implemented in order to strengthen local authorities, which will be eligible for upgraded assistance and support, especially in managing long-term planning. The five-year plan will assure that the target communities will benefit from the potential inherent in the move of IDF units to the Negev, according to the release. The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will be responsible for the overall Government work in implementing the plan.
In order to encourage young people and young families to move to the Negev, the supply of housing will be increased, culture and recreation will be expanded, a campaign to brand the Negev as a housing target and attractive place of opportunity will be launched, and additional civilian infrastructures will be developed in order to close the gaps between Negev communities and the center of the country.
The decision joins the Government’s five-year plan for the socio-economic development of the Bedouin population in the Negev, which is now in its second year, and adds industrial, commercial and environmental aspects to it.
Prime Minister Netanyahu said, “We will make a very great effort, and I think that it is a historic move in the context of Government decisions to approve a national plan for the development of the Negev.”