£3bn Arab plan could change Is­rael

The Jewish Chronicle - - WORLD NEWS - ANSHEL PFEFFER

THE NIS 15 bil­lion (£2.64 bn), five-year plan re­cently au­tho­rised by the Is­raeli govern­ment for the Arab sec­tor could go a long way to­wards clos­ing his­tor­i­cal gaps be­tween Jewish and Arab com­mu­ni­ties in Is­rael. How­ever, bu­reau­cratic and political ob­sta­cles stand in the way of its ef­fec­tive im­ple­men­ta­tion.

The un­der­fund­ing of Arab com­mu­ni­ties is the re­sult of decades of ne­glect and dis­crim­i­na­tion, in the al­lo­ca­tion of re­sources, in plan­ning and in in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment. This state of affairs has con­tin­ued un­der all the gov­ern­ments of Is­rael, go­ing back to the state’s foun­da­tion.

Un­til now, the only govern­ment to try to se­ri­ously ad­dress this is­sue was the Rabin govern­ment from 1992-95, but the sys­temic gaps re­main.

The new plan, hatched by Equal­i­ties Min­is­ter Gila Gam­liel and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Moshe Kahlon, is de­signed to ad­dress th­ese is­sues, work­ing both with govern­ment min­istries and lo­cal au­thor­i­ties on a wide range of fund­ing and plan­ning is­sues. How­ever, civil so­ci­ety and Arab or­gan­i­sa­tions claim that while the fund­ing is wel­come, it has not been de­vel­oped through suf­fi­cient di­a­logue with the in­tended re­cip­i­ents. One ma­jor prob­lem that has yet to be ad­dressed sat­is­fac­to­rily is whether the funds will also be al­lo­cated to Arab com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing in “mixed cities”, who make up as much as 20 per cent of the Is­raeli-Arab pop­u­la­tion.

An­other is­sue is the govern­ment’s in­sis­tence that Arab coun­cils agree to plan­ning new neigh­bour­hoods of “high-den­sity” hous­ing, rather than the more tra­di­tional pri­vate de­tached houses pre­ferred by Is­raeli Arabs.

A fur­ther bone of con­tention is the govern­ment’s in­ten­tion to use the plan to boost na­tional ser­vice schemes. Cur­rently a small mi­nor­ity of Is­raeli Arabs par­tic­i­pate in the pro­grammes, which are also op­posed by Arab politi­cians. The main political bar­ri­ers to the plan, which was passed unan­i­mously de­spite heated ar­gu­ments be­tween Ms Gam­liel and a num­ber of her Likud col­leagues, are the as yet un­spec­i­fied pre­con­di­tions for the fund­ing, which are sup­posed to en­sure that the govern­ment will not be “sent to the Wild West” as Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu said in one cab­i­net dis­cus­sion.

Mr Ne­tanyahu has said that he ex­pects lo­cal coun­cils re­ceiv­ing the fund­ing to co-op­er­ate with more in­ten­sive polic­ing, in­clud­ing col­lect­ing il­le­gal weapons and crack­ing down on build­ing with­out per­mits.

The Arab politi­cians’ re­sponse to this is that they have a clear in­ter­est in bet­ter polic­ing and in stream­lin­ing plan­ning pro­ce­dures in their towns and vil­lages, but that this should not be a pre­con­di­tion to end­ing fund­ing in­equal­ity. The calls for more polic­ing in the Arab sec­tor have in­ten­si­fied since the at­tack in Tel Aviv two weeks ago in which an Is­raeli-Arab from Arara mur­dered two men at a bar and a taxi-driver while flee­ing. Hard­liner min­is­ters Yariv Levin and Zeev Elkin have since been ap­pointed by Mr Ne­tanyahu to for­mu­late cri­te­ria for the al­lo­ca­tion of the funds.

Arab ar­eas have un­der­gone years of ne­glect

PHOTO: FLASH 90

Pales­tini­ans pray in front of the Al-Aqsa mosque

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