The development of Israel's regions of priority is one of the Jewish Agency's strategic goals. According to the Strategic Plan, the Jewish Agency - through the Israel Department - will work to achieve the development of these areas by means of lobbying, advocacy, planning and expanding and deepening the involvement of Jews in Israel and the Diaspora.
Daroma and Tsafona are private non-profit companies which were established by Israeli and Jewish entrepreneurs and philanthropists with the goal of leading the national strategic planning process for the Negev and Galilee regions. The Jewish Agency is a strategic partner in these companies. Mr. Eitan Wertheimer serves as the Chairman of the Board of both companies.
The Daroma company, in cooperation with government ministries, the Authority for the Development of the Negev, local councils in the Negev, the Bedouin sector, the MacInsey Company, professional bodies, non-profit organizations and the Jewish Agency, has completed the planning stage and has prepared a comprehensive national strategic plan for the Negev.
The plan establishes the following objectives for 2015:
" Increasing the population to 900,000 (from 535,000 at the end of 2003).
" Raising the number of the employed to 300,000 (from 164,000 at the end of 2003).
" Reducing the disparity in average per capita income relative to the national average to 4.7% (from 10.7% in 2001).
" Equalization of the proportion of students among residents of the Negev (the Jewish population) to the national average and raising the proportion of students among the Bedouin population.
In order to achieve these objectives, the plan has mapped out activity in five main areas:
" Economic Development - removing region-wide barriers to economic development and promoting leading sectors in order to create employment.
" Education - Narrowing of gaps and improvement of the existing education system with the goal of creating a region that will be attractive to both new populations and the current residents of the Negev.
" Housing and Settlement - Strengthening the settlement of the Negev. Setting the Negev apart by offering a high-quality residential experience.
" Infrastructure and Environmental Quality - Completion of investment in transportation infrastructure in order to improve quality of life and to facilitate the development of the business sector and the attraction of new populations. Investment in the infrastructure of Bedouin settlements in order to improve living conditions and to attract the population to permanent settlements.
" Community and Leadership - Nurturing the community and the young population, promoting regional cooperation and developing professional regional leadership.
The government of Israel under former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon approved the program (Decision No. 4415) on November 20, 2005. In addition, it was decided that 17 billion NIS would be allocated, directly and indirectly, to the development of the Negev between the years 2006 and 2015.
The events of the past year, including the war in the North, have changed the government's order of priorities. This change has been manifested in a reduction of the budget that was intended for the Negev. The implications of these developments in the long run are still unknown.
However, the government did approve a designated budget for the Negev of about 150 million NIS for 2007.
The Government Decision on Daroma
The Tsafona Company was officially established during the last few months and is working on a national plan for the Galilee region. Following an in-depth study of the situation in the Galilee, a vision will be formulated and long run objectives will be drawn up. Following that, a number of planning teams will begin working on areas that are identified as critical (infrastructure, economic development and creation of employment, education and community) while giving specific attention to various districts in the Galilee.
Simultaneous with the planning process, projects and opportunities will be identified that answer the criteria of the plan and are in accordance with its objectives. These are projects that it will be possible to initiate within the short run and that will be integrated within the regional strategic plan at a later stage.
According to the intended schedule, the principles of the plan will be formulated by August 2007 in order to enable the budgeting of the plan for the 2008 budget year. The detailed plan will be completed by the end of 2007.