Earlier Thursday, Negev regional council heads Alon Schuster (Sha'ar Hanegev), Meir Yifrach (Sdot Negev), Shimon Cohen (Ashkelon Coast) and Uri Naamati (Eshkol) addressed Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with demands to declare the region a confrontation line.
“This is the time to roll up your sleeves and focus on the ‘Gaza perimeter’ issue, which hasn’t – and won’t – go away, unfortunately, from the national agenda in the upcoming years," the council leaders said.
"The security threats unique to the confrontation line around the Gaza Strip saw no pause for even a moment over the last few months. Rocket attacks continue, Red Dawn warning sirens cause hearts to tremble night and day – terror attempts are routine for us. Luckily, there have not been casualties lately. Moreover, the loudness of the IDF artillery fire and blasts from failed shells are intolerable and cause personal distress to people of all ages,” they added.
‘No money for protection’
The regional council mayors said that the ongoing threat is having an increasingly negative affect on the region, persuading students and businessmen not to come and residents not to stay.
“Add the problem of protection – the long time period it will take to shield kindergarten buildings, and the fact that there is no budget to protect student institutions, public buildings and private homes on the horizon, and you have a phenomenon of lost security in a strategic location for Israel,” they warned.
Aside from the demand to declare the Gaza perimeter zone a confrontation line, the council heads requested that a long-term multi-ministry plan be drafted for the protection and development of Gaza perimeter communities.
A plan of action allotting budget money for development of the area must be decided upon as soon as possible, they urged.
“In recent months, we prepared a draft for such a plan, and we were in contact with many ministers and director generals, but it is clear to all that there is no alternative to a top-level government decision," they said.
"Quick and serious work must be carried out, in coordination with us and with Sderot's mayor, in an effort to reach a cabinet decision on the budget for such a project as soon as possible,” they added.