"The periphery must be eliminated, primarily by means of the transportation plan, including high-speed rail, interchanges and roads to connect the Galilee and the Negev with [central Israel]," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday in an address at the seventh annual Galilee Conference in Tiberias.
Netanyahu said the government had allocated 27 billion shekels ($7.8 billion) to its transportation plan to bring all parts of Israel closer together.
"The vision is a train from Kiryat Shmona [on the northern Israeli border] to Eilat [in the south] and an expressway from Kiryat Shmona to Eilat -- and this vision will be fulfilled," Netanyahu said. "In terms of employment, we will turn the Galilee into a global center for life sciences."
President Shimon Peres also addressed the conference on Tuesday, and said: "We must change national priorities and invest resources in the Negev and the Galilee -- in higher eduction, infrastructure, high-tech centers and the establishment of a university in the Galilee that has several campuses."
Negev and Galilee Development Minister Silvan Shalom said at the conference, "We will turn the excellent colleges in the Galilee into multi-campus universities. The required budget increase is negligible."
Justice Minister Tzipi Livni told the conference: "The Galilee is not just guest houses and vineyards. It can also be green industrial zones, the capital of high-tech and science, and a region of education for the young. This is all a matter of national priorities. I prefer the Galilee -- Kiryat Shmona and Tiberias -- and the Negev over isolated settlements outside the blocs.
"This is my Zionist and nationalist priority -- instead of annexing to Israel settlements outside the blocs and turning us into an isolated and boycotted country, I prefer the cultural, economic, social and national annexation of the Galilee and the Negev."