Liberman touring factory: today
Liberman touring factory: todayAriel Hermoni / Defense Ministry

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) visited the Israel Military Industries (IMI)-owned Ashot Ashkelon factory in southern Israel.

During the visit, the Defense Minister received a review from the Ashot Ashkelon administration, toured the factory's production line, and met the factory workers. Liberman is the first defense minister to visit the factory.

Liberman was accompanied by IMI Chairman Yitzhak Aharonovitch, Manufacturers Association President Shraga Brosh, IMI CEO Avi Pelder and Ashot Ashkelon CEO Michael Dayan.

"Ashot Ashkelon has existed for 50 years, and it serves as a professional and strategic center of knowledge for the IDF and the defense establishment," said Liberman.

"This is an important factory that manufactures components for the Merkava and Namar tanks. This factory is an important employment anchor, employing about 500 workers directly and dozens more indirectly, 93% of them from the southern region, and the fact that the factory has worked continuously and without interruption even during Operation Protective Edge (the 2014 IDF operation in Gaza, ed.) is testimony to this."

"The financial strength of Ashot Ashkelon is very important, especially against the backdrop of the recent closure of three factories in the south.An Elbit Systems factory has only recently opened in Arad.

"As we finalize the next multi-year program of the IDF for the next decade, we will also have to finalize a multi-year plan for the defense industries. In the coming years, we expect a significant increase in defense exports and production, and are prepared for the defense industries in Israel not to be harmed when a drop in the conversion from dollars to shekels follows the agreement with the United States. Therefore, we are increasing the backlog in Israel and are satisfied with the orders coming from abroad, leading to our assessment that the defense industries will not be harmed as a result of the aid agreement.

"The Defense Ministry is creating a social and economic revolution that is changing the face of the south, both by transferring bases to the region and by strengthening the factories which operate there.

"The defense industries are a major engine of growth for the State of Israel. In 2016, orders will flow from the Defense Ministry in the amount of NIS 4.5 billion ($1.27 billion), and the Intelligence and Communications Corps will have about 800 jobs for residents of the area. The four large industries and dozens of small factories directly employ about 35,000 workers and another 80,000 indirectly," Liberman added.

"Defense and defense research and development investments in 2016 alone amount to more than NIS 4 billion, and defense industries produce about $10.4 billion a year, of which $7.3 billion goes to export. Most of the State of Israel and the human quality in it," the defense minister stressed.

IMI chairman Yitzhak Aharonovitch said: "Ashot Ashkelon is an important employment anchor in the south. There are excellent and committed employees here who help the IDF and the defense establishment maintain our quality gaps from our enemies."