The government on Sunday approved a special auxiliary budget of 700 million shekels ($188 million) to bolster social resilience in Israeli communities near the Gaza Strip border.
The bill, sponsored by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calls for the allocation of the funds over the course of 2019-20. It follows meetings between Netanyahu and mayors of the border communities, which have been suffering from Palestinian arson terrorism and sporadic rocket fire for months.
“We will present the government with a plan to strengthen the civilian resilience in the Gaza-vicinity communities. This decision follows meetings I held with the heads of the local authorities there, and the finance and interior ministers,” Netanyahu said ahead of Sunday’s cabinet meeting.
“We decided to continue the aid program that was introduced to the area over the past few years, and we will invest another NIS 700 million in programs promoting the residents’ welfare. They stand firm and we support them.
“The resilience displayed by the residents of the Gaza-vicinity communities is an important component of Israel’s national resilience. This resilience helps me and my colleagues in the government and the cabinet to make the right decisions in the right way and at the right time.”
The bill offers financial incentives for companies to relocate to the area, and boosts education, health and welfare budgets, including budgets for resilience and crisis centers already operating near the volatile border. The overall aim is to bolster the residents’ faltering sense of personal safety.
Funds will also be dedicated to improving agriculture, sewage, transportation and other public infrastructure, and promoting tourism, access to digital services and new construction projects.
The projects will be promoted by the Prime Minister’s Office and by all government ministries.
“According to information provided by the defense establishment and in light of data gathered in 2018, it was concluded that the security threat the communities near the Gaza border face is unique compared to other communities in Israel. The emergency routine in this area requires a unique and different response to the residents’ needs by state and local authorities,” the government decision state.
Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel told Israel Hayom that “the resilience program is extremely important,” and that “the farmers in the area represent Zionism in 2018, and it was this understanding that led us to strengthen them.”
He said his ministry will promote issues such as increasing the number of foreign workers in agriculture, investing in research-and-development projects, and pursuing other projects to reduce social and economic gaps in southern Israel.