Government sets up NIS 1 billion fund to rehab shattered Gaza border region

Tekuma (Revival) administration intended to rebuild destroyed areas and improve government trust; lawmakers ask for NIS 13 billion in coalition kickback coffer to be chipped in

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a former political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

A picture taken on October 17, 2023 shows a pile of damaged and burnt vehicles in the southern city of Sderot, following the October 7 attack by Hamas. (Jack Guez/AFP)
A picture taken on October 17, 2023 shows a pile of damaged and burnt vehicles in the southern city of Sderot, following the October 7 attack by Hamas. (Jack Guez/AFP)

The government will allocate NIS 1 billion ($248 million) to a new, dedicated agency to rehabilitate Israel’s southern Gaza border communities ravaged by heinous atrocities and intense battles, according to a joint announcement by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry.

The so-called Tekuma (Revival) Administration will be headed by Brig. Gen. (Res) Moshe Edri, the current chairman of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, and he will report directly to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Its initial period of activity will be five years, and it will be eligible for additional funding.

The announcement comes thirteen days into Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip, sparked by a devastating onslaught by the terror group on October 7 in which some 1,400 Israelis were killed, over 200 people were kidnapped to Gaza, and towns and agricultural communities were left charred and largely uninhabitable.

The attack solidified a breakdown of trust by Gaza border residents who say the state both failed to protect them from years of rocket fire and ultimately, from Hamas’ bloody massacres.

Many residents have been quoted by Hebrew media saying they are unwilling to return to their homes at all, or would be willing only once full security is ensured by the state.

The agency will focus on rehabilitating areas ravaged by Hamas terrorists, including Sderot and its environs, and homes in communities within the following regional councils, provided that the structures are located within seven kilometers of the Gaza Strip: Eshkol, Hof Ashkelon, Sdot Negev and Sha’ar HaNegev.

Among its priorities, the administration will work to strengthen community life, physically rebuild destroyed areas, improve trust in the government, jumpstart economic and agricultural activity, and serve as a “unified central response” for battered southern communities.

The agency was approved by the Ministerial Committee on Social and Economic Affairs, chaired by Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, during their Thursday meeting.

Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich attends a press conference at the Finance Ministry in Jerusalem on October 19, 2023. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Smotrich has come under pressure from fellow lawmakers to transfer more funds to healing the south and making sure communities harried by rocket attacks farther from the Strip have proper defenses.

In a Thursday letter, Likud MK Yuli Edelstein and National Unity MK Zeev Elkin urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his political partners to redirect NIS 13.7 billion ($3.38 billion) in the state budget to the war effort. The money is currently earmarked for making good on inter-coalition promises.

“There is no doubt in our hearts that the coalition heads will understand the present need and discover national responsibility,” they wrote.

Netanyahu’s government came under fire for directing a large portion of the monies to ultra-Orthodox priorities, including several religious school systems that do not adhere to Education Ministry curricular guidelines.

Earlier on Thursday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that he takes personal responsibility for the security community’s failure to prevent Hamas’s attack, and then once it was underway, its slow response.

“I am responsible for the defense establishment. I was responsible for it in the last two weeks, even in the difficult incidents, and I am responsible for bringing it to victory in the battle,” Gallant said to the press at a military assembly ground near the Gaza border.

To date, at least seven senior Israeli officials have taken blame for the systemic failure, including the IDF chief of staff, the head of the Shin Bet, and the chairman of the National Security Council. Netanyahu is not among them.

Most Popular
read more: