MK Ahmed Tibi (UAL - Ta'al) in the Knesset..
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israeli-Arab leaders involved with ongoing Arab sector budget talks said that no progress was made at Monday’s conference with government officials and that a Thursday meeting would be held to decide new measures.
The conference – convened at the Knesset to discuss increasing the funds for Arabs in the 2015-1016 budget – was organized by Haifa’s Mossawa Center (The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel), representatives from the finance committee, Ta’al chairman and senior Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi and Balad MK Basel Ghattas.
A budget deal has long been in the works, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu deciding at the end of August to transfer a budget supplement of NIS 900 million to Arab municipalities, but talks have stalled.
Tibi told The Jerusalem Post that the Arab representatives presented a five-year plan of NIS 32 billion but the finance ministry only offered around NIS 13 billion.
“We also discussed infrastructure in the Arab sector, industrial zones, transport and employment issues,” he said.
The Arab leadership was disappointed that Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon did not show up as planned, though Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, Senior haredi MK Moshe Gafni of the United Torah Judaism party, and Finance Ministry budget director Amir Levy were present.
Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ganaim, head of the National Committee of Arab Heads of Municipal Authorities will head the meeting on Thursday to decide on measures “to escalate the struggle because of the lack of response from the Finance Ministry to their demands,” Tibi said.
At the end of the meeting, minister Gamliel told Arab representatives that she would talk to the finance minister and prime minister about the issue.
Jafar Farah, the director of the Mossawa Center, told the Post after the conference that it appears that the government has gone back on understandings reached in previous talks.
Farah pointed out that the absence of Kahlon meant that he did not want to close a deal. “Everything is stuck,” he said, adding that Levy spoke about continuing talks after the yearly budget is passed.
“Arab youth need educational support in order to find jobs,” said Farah.
He also complained that the current atmosphere of violence probably did not positively affect the talks. Moreover, he said that plans to bring in thousands of foreign workers from Asia, instead of employing local Arabs, was a bad idea.
“Nothing is finalized yet, but I hope it will be,” Ganaim had said last month regarding the budget negotiations. “As long as nothing is signed, there is nothing to say.”