The army’s intelligence units – Unit 8200, the technological intelligence unit and more – are expected to start moving to the Negev in 2022, the Defense Ministry has announced.
According to the plan, within a year a tender will be issued to build an intelligence base on some 2,500 dunams (625 acres) near the town of Omer, not far Be’er Sheva.
Previous cabinet decisions had set much earlier deadlines for this move; in 2011 it determined that the tender would be published in 2013 and the units moved south by the end of 2018. But disputes between the treasury and the Defense Ministry delayed the process. According to Col. M, who is responsible for the Intelligence Branch’s move to the Negev, the new date for completing the move is 2023.
Haaretz has previously reported that despite the plan, the IDF is going forward with the construction of a building for a unit located in Givatayim. “We are not investing in the center right now because the aim is to move south,” said M., in a conversation with reporters. “We are paying a price for the current infrastructures and we’re strengthening them for now until the move.”
It still isn’t clear how the tens of thousands of soldiers expected to serve at the new base are going to get to it. Some 30,000 people are meant to serve there, but there will be quarters for only 5,000. Nor is it clear how thousands of soldiers are meant to get from their homes all over the country to the base in the south. The Defense Ministry described the access issue as “unresolved.”
“We will have to solve this accessibility issue so that people can get to the base every day,” said Brig. Gen. (res.) Nati Efrati, who heads the Defense Ministry’s section coordinating the move to the south. One plan, he said, was to improve the frequency of the train to Be’er Sheva and set up a mass transit system between that city and the intelligence base. There are also discussions about building rental apartments in Be’er Sheva that would give priority to standing army soldiers.
Be’er Sheva Mayor Ruvik Danilovich said, “The intelligence complex is important news for Be’er Sheva and the entire Negev. I’m happy that we are en route to advancing these two national projects, intelligence and telecommunications. I’m sure that they will spark a dramatic change from the socioeconomic and infrastructure-technology perspectives. This is a huge growth engine that will turn the Negev into an international knowledge center that combines developing human capital with the development of the world’s most advanced technology. It’s a vision that’s coming true.”