The “periphery” is dead, or is in its last throes of life, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and President Shimon Peres both declared Tuesday at the Galilee Forum, which took place in the northern city of Tiberias. As part of the ongoing efforts to bridge the gap between the “two Israels,” the government has allocated NIS 2.5 million for biomedical research to be conducted at hospitals in northern Israel.
It was just one of the ways the government intends to bring the economically challenged north closer to the economic center of Israel in the Tel Aviv area. “There will be no more periphery, as a result of our policy of developing fast rail service to the north, and new roads and interchanges to connect the Galilee, the Negev, and the center of the country. That process has been proceeding full force in the Negev for several years, where new expressways and train connections have made Beersheva an attractive enough destination for high-tech companies to move to a high-tech industrial park, where dozens of multinationals are expected to open R&D centers.
“We plan to spend NIS 27 billion (over $7 billion) on our transportation infrastructure program to break through the traditional ‘Hadera to Gedera’ commuting limitations for workers in the center of the country,” said Netanyahu, naming the two cities that are generally considered respectively the northern and southern limit for a daily commute to work in the Dan area. “Our vision is a fast train from Kiryat Shmona in the north to Eilat in the south, and an expressway following the same route. And we intend to make sure that vision comes to fruition,” the Prime Minister said.
Addressing the conference, Peres presented his vision of a “high-tech periphery. We should change the national priorities and invest resources in the Negev and the Galilee – in higher education, in infrastructure and in hi-tech centers. We should prioritize the Negev and the Galilee.” In recent years, he said, a medical school was opened in the northern city of Safed, and efforts should be made to open a major university in the region as well.
In addition, he praised the growth of high-tech in the Arab sector, a significant portion of the Galilee’s population. A high-tech park which was recently opened in Nazareth, he said, “has changed the face of the city. An agreement was signed at the President’s Residence with the University of Texas which will set up a satellite campus in Nazareth. The Galilee has things which no other part of our country does. The government has a great vision for its development and it should be carried out as soon as possible.”
Part of that development is the new biomedical project being set up and funded by the Ministry for the Development of the Negev and the Galilee, the first time such a project is being developed outside the Chief Scientist’s Office. Eighteen studies have been approved for the project, and they will be conducted at hospitals throughout the Galilee. The project is just the latest in a series of biomedical investments in the Galilee in recent years, the most important of which was the establishment of a branch of Bar Ilan University’s medical school in Safed, the Ministry said.