Israel’s Cabinet approves plan to develop Sderot, Gaza border towns

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Israel’s Cabinet approved a nearly $364 million plan to develop the southern Israeli city of Sderot and communities on the border with Gaza.

The five-year plan approved Sunday at the regular weekly Cabinet meeting, which was held in the Hof Ashkelon Regional Council, includes funds for the economic, social and communal development of the area. The Cabinet also approved $56 million for security infrastructure and protection.

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Council heads from the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip – Hof Ashkelon Regional Council Chairman Yair Farjun, Eshkol Regional Council Chairman Chaim Jelin, Shaar Hanegev Regional Council Chairman Alon Schuster, Sdot Negev Regional Council Chairman Tamir Idan and Sderot Mayor Alon Davidi – attended the meeting.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in comments before the meeting said the Cabinet would submit a similar package for the development of the entire southern Israel in the coming month.

“We are committed to them, we have always been committed to them. In recent years there has been accelerated development in the south; we want to strengthen it,” Netanyahu said. “The Zionist answer to those who seek our lives is not only to rebuff them and overcome them in any campaign but also to develop our state, in this case the communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip and in the south, and to develop the Negev as a whole.”

The Cabinet on Sunday also voted for a 2 percent cut across all government ministries, except defense, to fund the Sderot and Gaza-border communities plan.

The education ministry would face the largest cut, at $1.35 billion.

Minister of Energy and Water Silvan Shalom, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Pensions Affairs Minister Uri Orbach abstained in the vote. Ministers Minister of Housing and Construction Uri Ariel and Minister of Environmental Protection Amir Peretz voted against the package.

The cuts must gain approval of the full Knesset.