Netanyahu: Aquaculture will be engine of growth for Eilat

Cabinet meets in southern city, though ministers helicopter down, rather than flying from Ben-Gurion.

August 5, 2019 00:07
2 minute read.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the weekly cabinet meeting. (photo credit: AMOS BEN-GERSHOM/GPO)

Aquaculture and marine biotechnology to produce food in water has the potential to be a growth engine for Eilat to the same degree that cybersecurity has proven a boon for Beersheba, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday.

Netanyahu was speaking at the start of the weekly cabinet meeting that was moved to the southern coastal city to show solidarity with the town and unveil a more than NIS 500,000 development plan for Eilat and the neighboring Eilot Regional Council.

The plan, approved by the government, comes just a month after the government closed down the Sde Dov Airport in Tel Aviv that serviced Eilat, a move decried by Eilat municipal officials and residents as delivering a death blow to the city’s development.

Flights to Eilat now originate at Ben-Gurion Airport, making the trip to Eilat – according to municipal officials – both more time consuming, since Ben-Gurion is less accessible and more expensive than Sde Dov.

Most of the ministers who attended the Eilat meeting arrived by helicopter, not via a commercial flight from Ben-Gurion.

Netanyahu said that the government will solve the city’s transportation problems, and that a committee will be established to investigate the willingness of international companies to run a domestic route to the city, something that he predicted would immediately reduce fares dramatically.

Netanyahu said that one of the first major reforms he put into motion was cutting the cost of international phone calls when he was prime minister in 1996 by allowing other companies to compete.

Netanyahu said that the government also intends to extend the country’s railway system to Eilat.

The NIS 500 million development plan for the city includes NIS 150m., to upgrade medical services, the prime minister said, adding that he will head an inter-ministerial committee to ensure implementation of the plan. Netanyahu opened the meeting by saying there was no intention to cancel Eilat’s VAT exemption.

Most importantly, he said, he wants to turn Eilat from only a tourism center into a center for technology and knowledge of producing food from the sea.

The development program calls for a seafood, aquaculture and marine biotechnology park to be set up in the region that will attract foreign investors.

Netanyahu, who said people scoffed when he began talking about turning Israel into a cybersecurity powerhouse a few years ago, said that it is becoming increasingly impossible to feed humanity from the land, and that the future of food production is in the water. He said his plan is to turn Eilat into a center for aquaculture technology and know-how.

Eilat Mayor Meir Yitzhak Halevi, a Likud mayor who was a harsh critic of the government plan to close Sde Dov, welcomed the development plan and said he hoped it would limit the damage to the city and hardship to its residents caused by the closing of the airport.

Eilat, with a population of some 65,000, has long been considered a Likud stronghold – with 43% of the ballots cast in the April election going to Likud, as opposed to 26% for Blue and White – and there is concern inside the Likud that the closing of Sde Dov could cut into that support.

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