Members of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, headed by MK Avi Dichter (Likud), toured the City of Training Bases on Sunday and were briefed on the various aspects of the national project to relocate IDF units to the Negev region in south Israel.

Colonel Orly Stern, head of the Infrastructure and Deployment Department in the IDF`s Planning Directorate, said some 60,000 housing units will be marketed in the area as a result of the transfer of army bases, while the construction of the bases will create jobs for residents of the region.

Brigadier General (res.) Hezi Meshita of the Southern Relocation Administration in the Ministry of Defense told the committee members that the number of IDF soldiers serving in the Negev will double as a result of the move, ”but the infrastructure is not yet in place – not for those who will want to go back to their homes in central Israel every day, and not for trains and buses that will face [heavy traffic] on Sundays and Thursdays.”

Defense Committee Chairman MK Dichter: ”Moving IDF units to the south – an important Zionist project”

(Defense Committee members at the the City of Training Bases)

”Not finding a solution to this transportation problem is a red line, and the head of the IDF`s Intelligence Directorate announced that without a solution he will not permit the transfer of the Intelligence Directorate [to the south]. If the infrastructure will not be advanced, there will be no relocation,” he warned.

Yossi Katribas, Senior Deputy Director General of the Prime Minister`s Office, said, ”If we would have met here four years ago or two years ago, we would have heard much more pessimistic things. The debate on whether [the relocation] will take place is over, and now it is happening in the best possible way. There are plans for issues related to transportation, health and more. Everyone believes the main challenge is personnel.”

Colonel Danny Moshayov, commander of the City of Training Bases, accompanied the Knesset members during their tour. ”What you feel here is not the wind, but the clap of the wings of history,” he told the committee members. ”Three and a half years ago there was only sand here, and now there are seven bases.”

Committee Chairman Dichter said, ”There is definitely room for optimism in light of this great Zionist project of moving [IDF bases] to the south. People will continue to serve out of a sense of purpose and also [take advantage] of the interesting and challenging things the IDF is offering young people.”

Dichter also stressed that the Bedouin residents of the Negev ”must be part of the project, and asked that those in charge of the relocation list the remaining problems ”so that the committee will be able to do all it can to advance this important project.”