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Israel to develop desert at a cost of USD 139 mn

The Israeli cabinet has approved a 500-million-shekel (about USD 139 million) plan for the economic development of the Negev desert.

The five-year plan calls for significant investment in new housing, development of a high-tech sector, upgrading infrastructure, and strengthening local governments, Xinhua reported.

Beersheba, the largest city in Negev, and smaller communities, including Dimona, Yeruham, Arad and Ofakim, have been defined as target communities in the plan.

The plan includes construction of three industrial parks, and would further provide financial incentives for companies to relocate to Negev.

Drawn up by the Prime Minister's Office and the Negev and Galilee development ministry, the plan complements the Israeli military's massive relocation of air and ground bases to the Negev in the coming years.

The government expects the plan to boost Negev's economy by up to 1.7 billion shekels (USD 470 million) every year by 2020.

At Sunday's cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the plan a "historic move", saying that it will create jobs and turn Negev into an important high-tech hub.