Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Finance Minister Avraham Hirchson have accepted the request of Vice Premier Shimon Peres and announced that the 3.5 percent cut to all government ministries will not affect the budgets for strengthening the Negev and Galilee, including the rehabilitation programs for the north.
The government approved a plan to strengthen Haifa and the north at a cost of 2.8 billion shekels, and a strategic plan to develop the Negev during 2007 to the tune of 400 million shekels. The two plans focus on programs in the areas of employment, education, settlement, infrastructure, community, and quality of living in the Negev and Galilee.
Peres said during the meeting that despite the war in the north and the budget increase for the Defense Ministry, Israel must keep investing in the Negev and the Galilee. “We must not hurt the public’s faith regarding the true intentions of the government to act in those areas and invest all we can in order to strengthen and advance the peripheries,” Peres said.
“The development of the Negev and Galilee is now in the highest priority of the Israeli government and we must not have any budget cuts in these areas,” Peres said and praised Olmert’s and Hirchson’s decision not to cut the budget.