Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday that the government “has turned the Negev and Be’er Sheva into the cyber capital of the Eastern Hemisphere” and that “there will no trickle of rockets.”
Every prime minister for the past 20 years has promised Jews in Gaza, before they were expelled, and residents in the Western Negev, that Israel will not tolerate missile fire from Gaza.
Those promises were worth about as much as the commitment of Ariel Sharon when he encouraged Jews to live in Gush Katif and as much as the intellectual dishonesty of the Labor governments that offered incentives to Jews to live in the same communities in Judea and Samaria that they now want to dismantle.
After the expulsion of Jews from Gaza in 2005, the Palestinian Authority, then under the aegis of Mahmoud Abbas and later under the current Hamas regime, relentlessly pounded Sderot and Netivot with missiles. They developed longer-range rockets to hit Ashkelon, and then Ashdod, both of them key port cities where a single missile blast at the wrong place could blow up strategic infrastructure, such as the electric generating, fuel depots and gas lines. Defense ministers talked, and terrorists fired. When the missiles stated hitting the area of Rehovot and Rishon LeTzion, cities that are part of metropolitan Tel Aviv, the government ordered the IDF not only to put an end to the attacks but also changed its policy and started retaliating for every rocket attack.
It is a sad fact that the government really does not care that much about the towns of Sederot, Netivot and surrounding rural areas. The votes are in metorpolitcan Tel Aviv, the home of most Israeli factories and offices and the homes of the power brokers, the people who really run Israel.
Tel Aviv is running out of room, Home prices are out of reach of the average family, and the Olmert and Netanyahu administrations made strategic decisions to invest in the wide open Negev, whose “capital” is Be’er Sheva, for decades an ignored outpost for Moroccan Jews and academics who learn and teach at Ben Gurion University.
A revolution is taking place in Israel, and it is in the Negev. A new high-tech park, with international investment, was launched earlier this year. The north-south Highway 6 high-speed highway is being extended to the outskirts of Be’er Sheva.
The IDF is in the process of moving bases, especially Air Force bases, from the Tel Aviv area to the Negev.
“We are in the midst of a revolution that is turning the Negev into a thriving center, not a periphery or branch, into a bustling center of Israel,” Netanyahu said Tuesday.
His last line, that “my policy is clear; any firing of rockets will be met with an immediate and sharp response,” was ostensibly irrelevant to the subject of development, but in fact it was part and parcel of the new Negev.
Israel now has a vested interest in the Negev, and it cannot afford even one rocket attack no more than it can allow rocket firing on Ben Gurion Airport.
It is not a very nice message to the pioneers of kibbutzim, moshavim and development towns in the Negev, but the truth is that the Iron Dome anti-missile system is just a Band-Aid.
The developing the Negev as the Cyber Capital of the Eastern Hemisphere is guaranteeing southern Israel peace and quiet.