UPDATES 7 pm Israel time, Friday, April 11 2014:
*With the IDF and Border Guards ludicrously focused on arresting members of the Jewish community of Yitzhar and even more ludicrously taking over and turning the yeshiva in Yitzhar into a Border Guard station, Palestinian terrorists have gone wild this afternoon throughout Judea and Samaria.
At Bil’in, an IDF soldier was wounded by “rocks”; at Shiloh, two more IDF soldiers were wounded; in Hebron, terrorists threw “rocks” and Molotov cocktails at IDF security forces; at Gush Etzion, numerous Israeli motorists were attacked with “rocks”; large-scale Palestinian rioting has occurred at Nabi Saleh and numerous other places.
By the way, four of the six Yitzhar members who were arrested yesterday by the IDF were ordered released today by a Jerusalem magistrate for lack of evidence. The other two had their detentions extended for 24 more hours.
*What’s new in the “peace process”? As noted as a possibility in yesterday’s blog, the agreement reported so breathlessly by Israeli television announcers was, in fact, nonexistent–as of yet.
Nevertheless, some signs remain that all sides are moving toward some sort of agreement along the lines of what your humble servant described. All this despite the fact that the Palestinian recognition train rolls on with authorities in Switzerland accepting the Palestinian application to various bodies such as the Geneva Convention.
Should such an agreement come to pass that involves the release of more murderers, particularly Israeli-Arab ones, the Netanyahu coalition could be doomed. Naftali Bennett announced yesterday that he and his party would not sit in a government that made such releases, and Danny Danon along with other members of Netanyahu’s own party have said the same thing.
Ironically, a new poll out this morning commissioned by the Haaretz newspaper shows the “right” parties in Israel gaining in strength at the expense of those in the center and on the left. However, Israeli polls are notoriously changeable, and it would be premature to read too much into this one.
Israel is moving south.
Anyone who has ever looked at map can easily see that the Negev region from Beersheva to Eilat constitutes a vast swath of Israel. In fact, 60% of Israel is the Negev–but only 8% of Israelis live there. It is an increasingly important strategic area, bordering as it does on one side the Egyptian Sinai and on the other side Jordan. It is on the Jordanian border that major desalination projects are underway that will eventually provide more water to the region.
It is in this context that Israel has embarked on a “Move South” campaign that is being spurred by the movement of IDF headquarters and bases out of central Israel toward an area south of Beersheva. Concomitant with this movement, the government is investing billions of shekels in developing technology parks in the southern suburbs of the city.
A couple of days ago, we saw an example of how this process is beginning to take shape. Major American defense contractor Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson was in Beersheva to open the companies new Israeli headquarters–a headquarters “headed” by former Israeli Air Force Brig. Gen. Shelly Gotman.
Hewson made these comments at the opening:
“The consolidation of IDF Technical Units to new bases in the Negev Desert region is an important transformation of Israel’s information technology capability. We understand the challenges of this move – which is why we are investing in the facilities and people that will ensure we are prepared to support for these critical projects.”
Hewson explained how Lockheed Martin will work to create jobs in and around Beersheva:
“By locating our new office in the capital of the Negev, we are well positioned to work closely with our Israeli partners and stand ready to accelerate project execution, reduce program risk and share our technical expertise by training and developing in-country talent.”
She also drew the connection between IDF technical expertise and the Israeli penchant for innovation:
“In the United States, Silicon Valley stands as our country’s ‘center for information technology innovation. With the opening of this office and the strategic investments being made by the IDF it is clear that Be’er Sheva is on its way to becoming the Silicon Valley of Israel.”
Finally, Hewson recalled how Israel’s first prime minister fought so hard for the inclusion of Negev in the state of Israel:
“Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion understood the potential for this region when he called for pioneering settlement of the Negev Desert nearly 60 years ago. The ‘Move to the South’ initiative is a significant step in fulfilling Ben-Gurion’s vision of ‘making the desert bloom.’ And we are proud to be a part of this national center of excellence for information technology in the south.”
Once a sleepy, dusty town, Beersheva–with a steadily increasing population of more than 205,000–is booming with Israelis streaming there for high-tech jobs and lower prices. In many ways, Beersheva is the future of Israel as the country moves south.