(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Ra’anan Dinur today (Tuesday), 3 June 2008, toured Sderot and other communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. He updated local and regional council leaders on the government’s intention to invest resources in strengthening the population in the area. A principal goal is to induce high-quality groups to move to the area – with government assistance. The Prime Minister’s Office – in conjunction with other government ministries – is currently formulating a plan to use various economic and social levers to these ends, and intends to submit the plan for government approval in the coming weeks.

PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur told the local leaders: "We intend to submit, for government approval, a continuing plan for civil-government assistance to Sderot and other communities adjacent to the Gaza Strip, in parallel with major investments in structural reinforcement. We are formulating a strategic plan for the next three years that will foster growth in the area and lead to hundreds and thousands of new residents. I believe that this is the true and Zionist answer to those who seek to harm us." He instructed PMO personnel to consider all requests from the local leaders while the three-year plan is being formulated.

In 2003-2008, the Government invested NIS 1.866 billion in structural reinforcement and civilian assistance projects for the residents of Sderot and other communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip. Over NIS 1 billion is being invested in structural reinforcement for educational institutions, residences, public institutions, bus stops and various security installations in the communities. The Government is working to strengthen residents’ resilience in the face of the security threat via a series of plans worth over NIS 500 million in direct civilian assistance by means of discounts in local taxes and income tax, and in aid to daycare centers. There are also investments in regional infrastructure such as industrial zones, water and sewage systems, roads, neighborhood refurbishment and agriculture. Substantial budgets have also been transferred in the form of assistance to local and regional councils, aid to populations in distress, aid to new immigrants and unique assistance to those suffering from shock.

PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur also toured a center in Sderot, one of five established in the area with NIS 8 million per annum funding from both the government and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews headed by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, designed to – inter alia – assist shock and trauma victims and provide medical aid to needy residents. The PMO Dir.-Gen. met with both professional staff and residents receiving treatment. He also thanked Rabbi Eckstein for the Fellowship’s efforts.