Prime Minister's Office Director-General Harel Locker toured the Negev in order to monitor the activities and preparations of the Construction and Housing Ministry's Bedouin Settlement Authority regarding the implementation of the plan to formalize the status of Bedouin communities in the Negev. Locker was accompanied by Doron Almog, head of the staff on implementing the plan, Authority Director-General Yehuda Becher and Col. Yossi Hadad, commander of the IDF Southern Command Trackers Unit and Southern Command's adviser on Bedouin affairs.
PMO Dir.-Gen. Locker first visited the Aleh Negev-Nahalat Eran rehabilitative village and the Idan Hanegev Industrial Park, which spreads over 1,700 dunams and which will employs 3,000 workers in the first stage, and an additional approximately 6,000 indirectly. Approximately 25 entrepreneurs – half from the Bedouin sector -- have already acquired space within the Park.
Idan Hanegev is also being developed within the framework of the NIS 1.2 billion plan to promote the economic growth and development of the Bedouin sector in the Negev. PMO Dir.-Gen. Locker was briefed on the overall development of the area by Bnei Shimon Regional Council Chairman Sigal Moran and Rahat Mayor Faiz Abu Sahiban, who emphasized that the Park is a successful example of joint management by Jewish and Bedouin local councils. Locker hailed the project as, "an example of genuine coexistence. You are not just talking about coexistence, you are living it."
Rahat Mayor Abu Sahiban briefed Locker on plans to expand Rahat including the "Rahat South" project in which approximately 4,600 residential units will be built in the first stage (some of which are already under construction) and approximately 3,500 in the second. Nine model residences are included in the plan, including buildings of up to six stories.
PMO Dir.-Gen. Locker later visited the "Oz Chicken" plant in Segev Shalom, where he was the guest of local council chairman Amar Abu M'amar. The plant, which was established in 2010 by a Jewish investor and is administered by a Bedouin manager, is a symbol of coexistence in the south. NIS 300 million has been invested in the plant, which spreads over 80 dunams and employs 1,050 workers, 30% of whom are women. The plant symbolizes a turning point and a breakthrough regarding the employment of Bedouin women.
PMO Dir.-Gen. Locker's tour ended at the Authority offices, where Director Becher briefed him on the plan and its stages.
PMO Dir.-Gen. Locker said that the plan to formalize the status of Bedouin communities in the Negev is a project the importance of which reaches far beyond the Negev and the Bedouin population. "The Prime Minister and I see this as a national project of the highest order. The Government is committed to implementing this plan and investing in it significant sums that are designed – inter alia – to formalize settlement and for the plan to the economic growth and development of the Bedouin sector in the Negev. To this end, we have already set working plans for 2012.
These will promote the economic growth of the Bedouin population. Government ministries have been mobilized for the plan out of the understanding that a comprehensive view is necessary in order to carry out a genuine change in the quality of life of the Bedouin population. We are on the verge of a new era in the Negev. Advancing the Bedouin population, turning Be'er Sheva into a metropolitan area, bringing IDF bases to the Negev and highways projects that are bringing the periphery closer to the center of the country are creating a process at the end of which the Negev will equal the center."