President Shimon Peres lashed out against the government on Tuesday for its failure to ensure the physical and economic security of Galilee residents. After meeting residents in Nahariya and Ma'alot and hearing from their representatives that the government has reneged on promises to ensure their safety and financial well-being, Peres promised that he would raise the issue with government ministers. Shlomo Buhbut, chairman of the Confrontation Line Forum and mayor of Ma'alot-Tarshiha, told Peres that area residents were literally living on the front line. The people of the North were good people who loved their country, and they would like to see a little more concern for their welfare on the part of the government, Buhbut said. He asked Peres to represent the Confrontation Line in dealings with the government. "It's impossible to tell when the next Katyusha rockets will be fired," he said. "We want you to use the full weight of your influence to ensure that the government takes responsibility for the northern region and builds fortifications that will guarantee our safety. We want to live in a strong Galilee with an economically strong population, and not in a weak and needy Galilee," said Buhbut, whose remarks were endorsed by heads of local councils. Peres said he supported their struggle, and that the government had made a grave mistake by suspending development in the Galilee. The government must allocate resources and do everything possible to enable residents of the North to live in safety and economic security rather than moving to the central region, he said. "I haven't changed my policies," Peres assured them. "I have the same vision for the Galilee as I had when I was minister [for the Development of the Negev and Galilee], and I will continue to pursue that vision." Peres also discussed the need to change educational priorities, suggesting that children start to learn foreign languages at an early age and that more emphasis be put on creative subjects and on science and technology. In a computer era, he said, there should be a different focus on history, because the information related to history was so easily accessible via the Internet, and it was not as necessary to cram it into one's head as it had been in the past. In Nahariya, Peres met with Karnit and Shlomo Goldwasser, the wife and father of abducted reservist Ehud Goldwasser, and spoke to them at length about efforts being made to repatriate the three kidnapped soldiers, Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in Lebanon, and Gilad Schalit in the Gaza Strip. Peres, who will pay a state visit to France next week, promised to place the repatriation of the soldiers on the top of his agenda in all his discussions with President Nicolas Sarkozy, members of the government and members of parliament. Peres also participated in the laying of the cornerstone for a new, fortified emergency ward at Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya, which was hit by a Hizbullah rocket in July 2006, during the Second Lebanon War. Also participating in the ceremony were the hospital's director, Dr. Masad Barhoum, who is the first Arab Israeli doctor to head a government hospital, Health Minister Ya'acov Ben-Yizri and Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski. The hospital, which is situated approximately seven kilometers from Lebanon, serves close to half a million residents of the Western Galilee as well as IDF and UN personnel, and treats about 120,000 patients each year. The fortified emergency ward will cost about NIS 105 million to build.