Luzzatto Group CEO and “Israel for the Negev” head Dr. Esther Luzzatto told the Jerusalem Post Group Leaders’ Summit that the state needs to change the manner in which it invests resources in the country’s remote regions.
“The center is collapsing into itself, and the Galilee and the Negev are the right answer to the country’s problems, and today we see that a turning point today,” she said.
“The center is collapsing into itself, and the Galilee and the Negev are the right answer to the country’s problems, and today we see that a turning point today,”Dr. Esther Luzzatto
In her remarks at the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange Convention Center, Luzzatto mentioned Israel for the Negev NGO, which was established in 2020 and was the driving force behind the government’s decision to move IDF bases to the southern desert.
“It’s a game-changer in the development of the Negev,” she said, “and it was almost torpedoed because the intelligence officers didn’t want to move to the Negev. This is despite the fact that for 20 years, all the prime ministers, defense ministers and chiefs of staff thought this was the right thing for the State of Israel.”
Would building communities in the Negev and Galilee be a good investment for Israel?
Luzzatto estimated that the move would result in an investment of NIS 60 billion in the development of the Negev and the creation of 50,000 jobs.
“We, the people of the Negev, understood that if we wouldn’t fight for our home, no one else would do it for us. Unfortunately, in the political discourse, the leaders are mostly self-centered and immersed in their own interests, and they don’t go out of their way to deal with crucial problems for the sake of our children. We fought all the way, petitioned the High Court of Justice, and withdrew the petition only when Defense Minister Benny Gantz decided on the issue and the project went forward. It taught us that we must take responsibility and force our politicians to bring measurable results. Otherwise, they will have to give up their positions.”
Luzzatto explained that the difficulties behind the move have not ended, with the current issue being the identity of the university that will provide the academic learning for permanent IDF personnel who will move south.
“Ben-Gurion University [of the Negev] accompanied this process for a decade, and it was supposed to allow most of the professional soldiers to study for academic degrees,” she explained. “As long as the issue was theoretical, it didn’t bother anyone, but as soon as it was decided that the intelligence unit would move to the Negev, and they realized that we had passed the point of no return, more universities woke up, and realized that these were thousands of potential students that could offer them financial gain, and they demanded to offer a tender.”
According to Luzzatto, the senior officers of the 8200 intelligence unit were the ones who approached Tel Aviv University to ask to open the study tender, knowing that it would probably win the tender due to its size and academic achievements.
“The game is rigged, and this is the story of the Negev,” she said. “Whenever great things have to be done here, they are torpedoed because the ‘State of Tel Aviv’ draws all the power. We are talking about thousands of jobs that for Tel Aviv will not change anything, but for the Negev, it is a life-changing matter.”
Translated by Alan Rosenbaum.