The Cabinet, at its weekly meeting, approved Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's approximately NIS 417 million economic benefits plan for Sderot and the communities in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip (with approximately half of the sum going to Sderot).The inter-ministerial plan is for 2015-2016 and will meet the immediate and intermediate- and long-term needs of local councils in the area in the wake of Operation Protective Edge. The plan was formulated in recent days by Prime Minister's Office director General Harel Locker following staff work with local council heads and government ministries, and in coordination with the Finance, Interior, Economy, Health, Negev and Galilee Development, National Infrastructures, Energy and Water, Public Security, Transportation and Road Safety, Social Affairs and Social Services, Agriculture and rural Development, Construction and Housing, Environmental Defense and Education ministers.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized that this is one of many steps that the Government is doing to assist the population under fire. He said that in addition to the economic assistance, the IDF will continue to operate until the goals of Operation Protective Edge are achieved – the restoration of quiet to Israel's citizens while inflicting a severe blow to the terrorist infrastructure.
The decision allocates NIS 226 million in 2014-2015 in addition to NIS 166 million that has already been allocated in 2014, in a previous decision formulated by the Prime Minister's Office. The scope of the plan in 2016 will be approximately NIS 193 million, with approximately half of this amount going to Sderot. The goal of the plan is to strengthen the residents, local councils and the local economy in light of the security situation and the difficulties in maintaining daily life. This assistance is an expression of the state's multi-year commitment to the residents of the area. One of the innovations in the plan is its bi-annual format. A bi-annual decision creates certainty and makes it easier for residents and local councils to benefit from continuity.
The decision includes a series of government measures to assist in the development of the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip including tax and property tax breaks, exemptions from leasing fees, daycare benefits, investments in infrastructures and local councils, benefits for industry, agriculture, business and employment, and expanded medical and welfare services.
Among the main benefits are:
Residents of the communities will be eligible for 20% tax credits; a 30% discount in residential property tax; a 24% discount in the property tax for industry, business, services, offices and agriculture; daycare subsidies, an upgraded and expedited employment track for absorbing new workers in the area; a 25% supplement in financing for industrial research and development; advancing the construction of student dormitories in Sderot; a 15% supplement in the allocation of foreign workers to the agricultural sector; investment in the development of the Sderot-Sha'ar Hanegev industrial zone; boosting informal education frameworks; exemption from Israel Land Authority leasing fees; and upgrading water, transportation and environmental protection infrastructures. In addition to these benefits, Sderot and the regional councils in the area will receive approximately NIS 31 million per annum in special grants for financing costs stemming from the security situation.
Psychological and social support services, at five local centers, will be expanded for those suffering from shock, especially children in 2015-2016. The number of intensive care ambulances will be increased, night medical services will be expanded and the Sderot mental health center will be upgraded.
It should be noted that similar decisions have been made in each of the past four years, at an investment of over NIS 1.3 billion. This assistance has been in addition to the over NIS 2 billion that has been allocated to building protected spaces in residences and to reinforcing educational institutions – and to building reinforced institutions – in the area adjacent to the Gaza Strip.