President Shimon Peres attended the Negev Committee which convened Tuesday morning in Beersheba, along with ministers, MKs and mayors of Negev towns, to discuss pressing issues including plans to settle some 300,000 people in the south.
Peres spoke of the importance of the region, saying, "The Negev has really undergone a revolution. Today this is an attractive area. If I wasn't a politician, I would even say it had sex appeal."
The president also spoke optimistically about developing the area, adding, "They built the railways so that it would be easy to get from the Negev to Tel Aviv, but soon they'll discover that their purpose is to make it easy to get to the Negev."
Peres also expressed his satisfaction that "Ben Gurion's vision has not been implemented. If it had been, the Negev would already be tired, spoiled and overfilled. Now with a new construction period it will be the region of the future."
He called on those present to build up the Negev "not like Tel Aviv, but as the most modern city. There's a lot of land there. Soon we won't have enough. Don't waste it – build high, plan for the future, make it the region of the future, daring, far-reaching, so that people will come from all over the world to see it."
Vice Prime Minister and Minister for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Silvan Shalom (Likud), Beersheba Mayor Rubik Danilovich and Head of the Ramat Negev Regional Council Shmulik Rifman were also present.
Yeruham Mayor Amram Mitzna said before the session, "Today young people, just after the army, students and young families looking for quality of life are moving to the Negev. I would call this ideology. The government too, the same government we love to criticize, is investing more in infrastructure following the reduction in major IDF bases in the Negev."