Photo Credit: Hadas Parush/Flash 90.
Construction site of the new combined military training bases in the Negev desert near Beer Sheva, May 7, 2014.

The Lapid-Bennett cabinet on Sunday approved an unprecedented NIS 500 Million ($160 million) plan that was formulated by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Defense Minister Gantz, and Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman to strengthen Be’er Sheva and the communities of southern Israel in the framework of moving IDF Bases to the south.
(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

In recent months, Prime Minister Bennett has ordered staff work to begin on correcting the fact that the latent economic potential in moving IDF bases to the Negev is yet to be fully utilized in terms of both demographic growth and the desired quality of life – despite the many resources that have been allocated in recent years by the previous government. Among other things, the Bennett directive pointed out considerable wage disparities between the Be’er Sheva area and the center of the country.

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Given the delay in moving the IDF bases, the cabinet has decided to take a series of steps to strengthen the socio-economic status of the Negev communities, particularly Be’er Sheva – and to resolve the need for rapid transportation for personnel who will be traveling to the Negev until the bases are ready to house them.

Prime Minister Bennett said at the start of the cabinet meeting Sunday:

We are submitting a decision on significant assistance to Be’er Sheva and the communities of the Negev today. We will invest almost NIS 500 million in education, employment, reducing wage gaps, planning a public hospital, strengthening technology and innovation, developing transportation, and creating rapid transportation from the center of the country to the south, infrastructures and the list is still long. I am pleased by this important decision, which expresses the policy of the government. We have spoken about investing in the Negev and here it is happening on the ground. As Ben-Gurion said, ‘The people of Israel will be tested in the Negev.’

Defense Minister Gantz said:

The plan expresses the significant integration between the IDF and Israeli society, and the need to strengthen national infrastructure and national needs through the defense establishment and all civilian establishments. I congratulate and thank the many government ministries that have joined in this national mission. At the same time, we will continue to strengthen the south and the north by various means, and, within a few years, we will bring about a situation in which a third of those serving in technological units will all be from the social and geographical periphery. Along with promoting the move, we will complete the entire plan for those serving, and in this framework, a rapid transportation solution for arriving at the bases and incentives for Negev communities.

Finance Minister Liberman said:

Developing the Negev is a top priority and a significant milestone for the government, which will, first and foremost, lead to the development of the economy and employment in the region. The economic growth of the Negev, through national projects that include infrastructure development, education, and the IDF, will lead to the prosperity of the entire country and positive population growth of the area while also improving its image. We will continue to work together to strengthen the Negev and invest to reduce the gaps between the periphery and the center.

These are the main points of the new plan:

    • NIS 40 million to plan a public hospital in the Negev
  • NIS 150 to create a military-academic-industrial ecosystem:

• Expanding Ben-Gurion University with emphasis on high-tech, cyber, and computer sciences
• Cooperation in research and development between the university, Soroka Medical Center, and IDF technological units
• Developing core areas of the Desert Teck innovation quarter in Be’er Sheva – digital health and cyber
• Training residents of the area, especially the unique populations, in an ‘8200 College’ format
• Developing the Be’er Sheva innovation quarter: Designing a construction plan, workspaces and a public area

  • NIS 90 million to fully utilize the opportunities for integrating the residents of the south in the regional development process:

• A southern venue for training nurses and increasing the potential in the south for medical students
• Strengthening technological education
• Developing cyber and science tracks
• Improving health services: Encouraging immigrant doctors, boosting positive competition between HMOs in the south, etc.
• Developing cultural activities that are economically viable and which have a cultural return

  • NIS 65 million to encourage positive migration to the south, planning, and development:

• Development grants for local councils and for developing the Be’er Sheva metropolitan area
• Formulating a multi-year plan for residential units for long-term rent
• Grants for building rental housing and for rent assistance
• Subsidizing ground development
• Training plans for spouses who move to the Negev

  • NIS 70 million for developing transportation and infrastructures:

• Advancing the availability of a light rail between Be’er Sheva and Lakiya
• Completing statutory planning for the Goral Rail Project
• Advancing the project for fast railway lines between Tel Aviv and Be’er Sheva

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.
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