Massive plan to upgrade Arab sector has good chance to work

By
June 10, 2016 15:28

Injaz – Center for Professional Arab Local Governance – is helping 35 Arab municipalities out of a total of 75 so far, and the number is growing.

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Bible Lands Museum

Preschool teachers from the city’s Arab sector take part in the Bible Lands Museum study day. (photo credit:Courtesy)

The multi-billion shekel deal for the Arab community is likely to be carried out, director of the NGO Injaz, Ghaida Rinawie-Zoabi, told The Jerusalem Post.

“The senior professional staff in the Ministry of Interior, Finance and other important ministries realize that in order for them to make sure Israel will prosper, it needs to invest in the social and economic goals of the Arab community,” she said on Wednesday.

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Injaz – Center for Professional Arab Local Governance – is helping 35 Arab municipalities out of a total of 75 so far, and the number is growing.

The NGO created a task force in January to facilitate Arab municipalities’ implementation of the new plan.

“The municipalities are very pro-active compared to the past and are not waiting for ministries to reach out to them,” she said.

In December 2015, the government approved the proposal by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel to promote a comprehensive program of economic and structural development.

The five-year plan is estimated to be worth NIS 10 billion-NIS 15b., and would increase funding for housing, education, employment of Arab women, infrastructure, welfare services and public transport.

Last December, Netanyahu said that the budget proposal “is a significant addition designed to assist the minorities and to reduce gaps,” adding that the deal “strengthens law enforcement among minority populations, with an emphasis on illegal building.”

Rinawie-Zoabi commented that “in the last several years we are definitely seeing a shift in discourse within the government towards the Arab community, though the political discourse from ministers and politicians is often anti-Arab.”

Senior government officials understand that building a strong Arab middle class and increasing employment and education in the community benefits the state, she said.

She said that compared to a plan for the Arab sector under former prime minister Ehud Barak’s government worth around NIS 4b. that was not implemented, this one is not only worth more but also more likely to be implemented.

Asked if it is ironic that Netanyahu, who is criticized for his position with Israeli Arabs, is turning out to be better for the Arab community than Barak was, Rinawie-Zoabi responded that “Netanyahu is a politician and seeks to balance his anti-Arab positions.”

She said that the prime minister wants to be accepted by the international community and so he seeks to back up his talk about democracy and equality.

Questioned why this deal is going to be implemented as opposed to the last deal’s failure, Rinawie-Zoabi replied that this time the Arab portion of the budget is mainstreamed into the ministries with each one having to contribute around 20 percent to the Arab municipalities. For example, the public transportation ministry must contribute around 30% of its budget which means municipalities have to start planning in advance by chartering bus lines and creating parking lots, bus stops, and so on.

In addition, this time around the municipalities see the implementation as partly their responsibility and are preparing their financial situation and infrastructure for the budgeted projects.

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