Israeli Arab leadership-Finance Ministry far apart on budget talks as strike, protests loom

Joint List MK Jabareen to ‘Post’: The government offered a 200 million shekel increase in this year’s budget, but the Arab leadership is asking for 600m.

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August 30, 2015 14:46
2 minute read.
Knesset

Ayman Odeh (center holding walking stick), head of the Joint List party, and his supporters stand outside the Knesset, March 29. (photo credit: SETH J. FRANTZMAN)

 
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Talks between Israeli-Arab leaders and the Finance Ministry did not reach a breakthrough on Sunday.

The strike and protests threatened by the Arab sector remain scheduled to take place later this week, sources close to the talks told The Jerusalem Post.

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The office of Joint List head Ayman Odeh (Hadash) told the Post that the Arab side refused government suggestions and that he would meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday.

MK Yousef Jabareen (Hadash) told the Post that the government offered a NIS 200 million increase on this year’s budget to enable the continuous functioning of Arab localities, but the Arab leadership is asking for NIS 600m.

“I recommend to refuse the offer and stick to the strike,” Jabareen said. “So far, the promised increase in the budget is marginal and does not reflect the socioeconomic needs of the community.”

Negotiations will continue on Monday and “we will continue to insist on the NIS 600m.,” he said.

Jabareen said that the meeting with Netanyahu on Monday would include the other three Joint List leaders: United Arab List’s Masud Gnaim, Balad head Jamal Zahalka and Ta’al’s Ahmad Tibi.



Jafar Farah, the director of Haifa’s Mossawa Center (The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel), said on Thursday that if Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon does not make an acceptable proposal by Tuesday then there will be a general strike in the Arab sector and on the following day, when the Knesset is scheduled to deal with the state budget, there will be protests outside the building.

Farah told the Post on Sunday that the government’s offer of NIS 200m. included a condition to continue talks during the next four weeks regarding a proposed five-year plan.

Jabareen, who holds a PhD in civil rights law from Georgetown University, said that the discussion is regarding general development funds.

The Finance Ministry agreed to establish a team to work with the National Committee of Arab Heads of Municipal Authorities to discuss the fiveyear plan and to come up with recommendations by the end of September, he said.

These recommendations would then be included in the current budget proposed by the government, which should be finalized by November, he said.

“Although Arab citizens constitute 20 percent of the population, they get only a small percentage of the national development budget.”

The Joint List MK added, “There is actually a need today for affirmative action plans for the Arab localities in order to compensate them for past discrimination.”

The Mossawa Center said in a statement on Thursday that investment in Arab education remains low and many communities cannot build schools or daycare centers because of bureaucracy imposed by the Israel Lands Authority.

The center, in cooperation with the National Committee of Arab Heads of Municipal Authorities as well as Arab MKs, created a team to deal with economic issues in the Arab sector.

Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ganaim, who is the committee chairman, told the Post last month that the meeting that took place then between Arab leaders and the prime minister “was positive without a doubt.”

He said he would create a ministerial committee that would meet each month to deal with problems in the sector.

Asked about what funds were being demanded to develop the sector, Ganaim said that they were asking for NIS 32 billion over five years. This money will help the Arab sector deal with unemployment, crime and poverty, he said.

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