IDF SOLDIERS take part in a military exercise..
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
The Defense Ministry presented plans for the full transfer of IDF units to the south of the country, a challenging project that has been in the works for several years and would see tens of thousands of soldiers relocated.
“The IDF is already in the south, and we are determined to promote the transfer of the Intelligence Directorate and the Communications Division with full commitment, which will bring about a real change and fulfill Ben-Gurion’s vision for the Negev,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said on Sunday.
The plans were presented by Liberman, Defense Ministry director-general Maj.-Gen. (res.) Udi Adam and Deputy Chief of Staff Maj.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi.
Two additional large-scale bases – one for intelligence and the other for communications – are expected to be completed in the Negev over the next five years. According to the Defense Ministry the tender for the establishment of the communications base is expected shortly while the one for the intelligence base is expected to be issued in early 2018.
The army’s move south, called “Project IDF Ascent to the Negev,” began with the transfer of Ir Habahadim – the “City of Training Bases” – to the outskirts of Beersheba, some two hours south of Tel Aviv.
Ir Habahadim, which sits on an area of 1,065 dunam (263 acres) houses over 10,000 soldiers as well as the IDF’s School of Technology and Maintenance, C4I (the army’s Command, Control, Computers, Communications and Information Branch), Logistics Training School, Military Police, Military Medicine, School of Education and Youth, and the School of Human Resources.
The army’s move to the Negev, seen as the military’s largest and most ambitious infrastructure project ever, is an economic boon to the area and is expected to infuse $6 billion per year. The move also means an upgrade to the area’s infrastructure, with an expected relocation of hundreds of career soldiers’ families.
“The IDF is the most important social and economic engine in the country, and this is only one example of the tremendous potential of the IDF’s transfer to the Negev,” Liberman said.
“Together with the Intelligence and Communication Center, we are promoting other mega projects, including the transfer of additional intelligence units and the rebuilding of the Tze’elim base, in the amount of NIS 2 billion,” he added.
The Defense Ministry has admitted that almost half of those serving in the intelligence and communication campuses would have to commute from central Israel, which would require additional transportation infrastructure.
According to the ministry, while a quick and high-quality transportation method is a basic condition for keeping career soldiers in the army, there are no plans for a direct train line from the center of the country to Ir Habahadim and the intelligence campus in the Negev. Nevertheless, in an interview with journalists last year, Yaniv Afuta, spokesperson of the Yeruham municipality said that the army’s move to the south had already had an impact on the city, a short 10-minute drive from Ir Habahadim.
Established in 1951 by Romanian, North African and Indian immigrants, the municipality has begun building 3,000 housing units, a new neighborhood named Tzahala, and a hotel with 47 suites.
In addition to the IDF’s move to the south the Defense Ministry has confirmed the existence and expansion of a security factory in Arad. IMI Systems is slated to move their main plants in Ramat Hasharon to Ramat Beka in the Negev by 2022 as part of a government decision.