The Cabinet, this morning (Sunday, 14 July 2013), approved the 2013-2017 national Negev development plan worth approximately NIS 500 million. 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 the 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. 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. The plan 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, budgets for training employees, etc. 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'.

According to the plan, 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. 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. The plan that we are submitting today for the development of the Negev entails an additional investment of NIS 500 million and this investment will be in all the main aspects of life in the Negev in order to raise the quality of life. It is concentrated in employment, with an emphasis on high-tech. The Negev especially Be'er Sheva, is going to quickly become an important high-tech center for the State of Israel. The plan deals with economic development, strengthening infrastructures and housing solutions. It embraces all of the main communities in the Negev – Be'er Sheva, Dimona, Yerucham, Arad, Ofakim and the Merhavim Regional Council. It will also develop Be'er Sheva as a cyber center. In coordination with the Israel National Cyber Bureau<> (INCB), we are implementing joint projects and this is also a sign for the future, a better future for Be'er Sheva and the communities of the entire Negev."

Negev and Galilee Development Minister Shalom said, "The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will be responsible for managing and implementing the decision in order to ensure that the Negev will receive significant support that will cause IDF career families and other strong populations to move to the Negev. The Ministry, in coordination with the local authorities in the Negev, will manage a campaign to change the image of the Negev. In recent years, the Negev has undergone a revolution, is drawing strong populations and is developing in all aspects of life. This additional investment will provide an additional urgency to the Negev and will upgrade the entire region as well as its residents."

Finance Minister Yair Lapid said, "In addition to the major benefit to the development of the Negev, the transfer of IDF bases to the Negev will allow for the advancement of many housing starts in areas in demand and will lead to a lowering of housing prices."

The following bodies are involved in the project, led by the Negev and Galilee Development Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office: Finance ministry, Economy Ministry, Defense Ministry, Transportation and Road Safety Ministry, the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Culture and Sports Ministry, the Interior Ministry, the Construction and Housing Ministry, the Health Ministry, the Education Ministry, the Tourism Ministry, the INCB and the staff that is implementing the plan for the socio-economic development of the Bedouin population in the Negev.

In the context of the five-year Negev development plan, the INCB, which was established at the behest of Prime Minister Netanyahu approximately 18 months ago, will formulate a plan to establish Be'er Sheva as a unique Negev cyber center that will advance and concentrate research and development, industry and human capital in this field. The outline will advance the unique combination in Be'er Sheva of the IDF technological units that will move there, the research and teaching base at Ben-Gurion University and the city's developing elite industries, in cooperation with the relevant government ministries and local authorities and the Council for Higher Education Planning and Budget Committee.

In the framework of the decision, inter alia, NIS 40 million will be allocated to support the establishment of centers of leading cyber companies as part of Economy Ministry and INCB assistance for the absorption of new workers. Several meetings have been held in recent weeks, led by Be'er Sheva Mayor Rubik Danilowitz and INCB head Dr. Matania.