Official: The gov't has 'taken out a contract' on Haifa

Haifa Chamber of Commerce president Oded Feller has sent a sharply worded letter to PM Olmert blaming the government for damaging the city's economic prospects.

Haifa Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Oded Feller has sent a sharply worded letter to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert blaming the government for damaging the city's economic prospects and demanding that he stand by his promises to help advance the economy of the North, according to the Hebrew weekly Yediot Haifa. In his letter, Feller says it is clear that Haifa has "once again fallen to the bottom of the ladder of priorities, and that every time she tries to climb up, someone tramples on her fingers." According to the report, the letter was sparked by a recent decision by Industry, Trade, and Labor Minister Eli Yishai to cancel Haifa's status as a "national priority for technology." In his letter, Feller said this decision harms the city's ability to attract potential high-tech investors and "wipes out one of the best chances for economic development for the city." Feller wrote that Haifa's business owners had been suffering from years of governmental neglect even before they were hit by the 2006 Lebanon war. He said that after the war Olmert had presented the city with a detailed program of economic support, and this had enabled Haifa's business owners to see a light at the end of the tunnel. "But today we suspect that the government of Israel has blocked that tunnel for Haifa and the North," Feller wrote. Feller listed a number of other governmental decisions that were adversely affecting the city, including the "choking" of the new port with too little storage space and inadequate infrastructure; the lack of action on promises to turn Haifa's airport into an international airport, and the freezing of a promised train line from the city east to Jordan. "The government of Israel has 'taken out a contract' on Haifa," he said. No response to the complaints was reported.