(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser) 
 
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the local council of Beit Zarzir in the Jezreel Valley.  The visit took place at the request of the Head of the Local Council and Chairman of the Forum of Bedouin Councils in the north, Mr. Hassan El-Heib.

During the visit, the Prime Minister opened a local youth cultural center and received an honorary title from the Bedouin Sector.

Since assuming office, the Prime Minister has attached great significance to advancing the non-Jewish sector. This visit is one of many paid to this sector. The Prime Minister recently visited the following towns: Nazareth, Kfar Kassem and Segev Shalom.

The Prime Minister declared the advancement of the non-Jewish sector as one of the budgetary targets for 2005.  The ministerial committee for the non-Jewish sector, which is headed by the Prime Minister, last January received an extensive development plan, in the amount of NIS 172 million, for the Bedouin towns in the north, for the years 2004-5.

The Prime Minister’s Office oversees the implementation of the plan.  Last week, the Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Mr. Ilan Cohen, met with representatives of the Bedouin local councils in the north, in order to follow-up on the implementation of the plan.

During the visit, the Prime Minister addressed the guests, and noted: “I have been here many times, and am happy to see the tremendous development.  The warm words I heard from you make me feel as if I am in the midst of an election campaign.  I am determined to carry through my political plan, and no elections are necessary for that.

I attribute great importance to strengthening the relations between all Israelis.  The Disengagement Plan, which will be fully carried out by next year, will contribute to cementing our ties.  I believe that the key to peace is the eradication of terror.  As the Bedouin sector and the residents of Beit Zarzir have played a great and significant role in ensuring our security, I am convinced that they will do the same for ensuring peace.

In his speech, the Prime Minister elaborately discussed the actions taken by the Government to advance the Bedouin sector: “I have directed prioritizing this sector and ensuring the nurturing of existing neighborhoods while developing new plans.  Tomorrow the allocation of budgets for the projects we approved will be raised in the Finance Committee.  So far, investments have been made in the amount of NIS 45 million.  In addition, I have instructed giving priority to resolving the situation in the Bedouin local councils.

In his speech, the Prime Minister addressed in great detail the relations between Jews and Arabs in the State of Israel, and stated: “From my childhood days I have known that Jews and Arabs would live here side by side.  We are charged with the task of creating an atmosphere which will enable coexistence here.  Israel is a complex democracy which is comprised of many sectors, and in order that we may live here together in peace, two conditions must exist: all must abide by the law, and justice must be served.”

The Prime Minister also addressed in his speech the issue of terror and its impact on the region, and noted:  “I feel that 25 years ago, we were closer to the desired peace than we are now.  Terror ruined it.  I wish to return to a situation in which Israel and its neighboring countries, as well as the Palestinians, will work together for the advancement of the region.  I believe this will happen.  I, in any case, have resolved to advance it.