The plan boils down to building tracks between central Israel and the unemployment-ridden periphery, including the Red Sea resort city of Eilat
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will put an ambitious transport plan to build new road and rail connections between central Israel and the periphery to the cabinet on February 21.
For years, economists have argued that the lack of fast, efficient transport routes from Tel Aviv to other parts of the country has hampered Israel's economic growth. Now the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is about to unveil a program estimated to be worth US$13.5 billion and aimed to address that issue. The 20-year package is slated to be presented to the government later this month.
The plan boils down to building tracks between central Israel and the unemployment-ridden periphery, including the Red Sea resort city of Eilat, and extending the Trans-Israel Highway to Shlomi in the north and Mashavei Sadeh in the south. Highways in the Galilee would also be widened.
The presentation of the plan states that 40% of Israel's population is concentrated in the greater Tel Aviv area, where 50% of the jobs in Israel are to be found. That situation perpetuates the marginalized status of the periphery, boosting unemployment there to as much as 8% in the north compared with 5% in the center. The program aims to achieve a more uniform distribution of the population, of activity and of living standards. The working assumption behind the plan is that accessibility is key to achieving a more equal society.
Both the Finance Ministry and professional sector at the Transport Ministry argue that the plan is demographically senseless, non-essential from the perspective of transport, prohibitive, and technically impossible in parts. They also say it won't achieve its aims.
The latest plan, to be unveiled by Netanyahu, has been accompanied by media reports of serious differences between the Prime Minister's Office and the Finance Ministry. The latter holds the purse strings and is only prepared to release them if it is assured that the investment is worthwhile.