Implementation of Plan to Reinforce Sderot Buildings to Take Years

Knesset committee holds hearings on rocket-proof construction for western Negev settlements.

Even if the cabinet approves additional budgets for reinforcing homes in Sderot against Qassam rockets, prolonged planning procedures mean it will be months before the first homes become rocket-proofed, the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee heard on Monday.

The project, which is intended to cover the Negev city plus all neighboring towns and kibbutzim under rocket fire from Gaza, will involve thousands of reinforced rooms and is expected to take several years.

According to current estimations, construction will begin in four months at the earliest - after the plan is approved and the expenditure worked in to the budget. Experience, however, suggests the relevant parties might well adopt a lackadaisical approach, in which case construction is likely to begin only in 2008.

The red-tape constraints also render billionaire Arcadi Gaydamak's plans to make Sderot Qassam-proof impossible. Before the government pledged to fund the project, Gaydamak said that he could complete it in four months.

MK Yitzhak Levy (National Religious Party), who resides in the northern Negev, advocated enacting a temporary regulation to significantly shorten the planning process.

The number of sheltered spaces that must be built exceeds 5,000. The state plans to complete 200 sheltered rooms per month. Even if construction begins this fall, it won't be finished before 2012.

Prime Minister Olmert promised to move forward on reinforcing homes in communities near the Gaza Strip in February, but nothing was done.