(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Organizations involved in the Israeli-Arab sector admit that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made investments in it, but say such benefits are not enough and canceled out due to his government’s anti-Arab policies.
Netanyahu said on Monday he regretted offending the country’s Arabs during a rallying call on Election Day last week.
Speaking to the Israeli-Arab leaders, he emphasized his record of “tremendous investment in minority communities” and said that he regards himself “as the prime minister of each and every one of you, all the citizens of Israel, regardless of faith, ethnicity or gender.”
Fearing his voters would stay home, Netanyahu, who won a surprise election victory last Tuesday and is set to head a new government, accused left-wing organizations of busing Israeli-Arabs to the polls “in droves” to vote against him.
Jafar Farah, the director of Haifa’s Mossawa Center – The Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, told The Jerusalem Post
in an interview on Tuesday that Netanyahu’s government has carried out a discriminatory investment policy in the Arab sector.
“The streets are in a terrible state, towns are without proper sewage systems, and houses can’t be finished because of bureaucratic obstacles,” he said. “Less than 4 percent of the state’s development budget went to Arabs in 2014.”
“So how do you bridge the gap?” he asked.
Amnon Beeri-Sulitzeanu, coexecutive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, told the Post in an interview that Netanyahu has indeed harnessed significant investments in the Arab sector in transportation, employment, industrial projects and promoting higher education enrollment.
However, he said, “the investments will not be able to maximize their potential to integrate Arab citizens into society as long as they are not complimented by political will.”
“In parallel to these positive developments we have been witnessing waves of anti-Arab policies and legislation, which have alienated the Arab minority and threatened it.”
Because of counterproductive policies and statements, these investments are not likely to achieve the intended results comprehensively, added Beeri-Sulitzeanu.
Asked if economic improvement in the Arab sector would solve a significant proportion of the underlying problems and tensions, he responded that if real participation and social inclusion are not also sought, it wouldn’t work.
Regarding the reported plan to construct an Arab city just east of Acre, Beeri-Sulitzeanu said that this idea has being recycled over and over again while so far nothing is moving on the ground.
The city would be the first non-Beduin Arab city to be erected in Israel since its establishment. It is predicted to have a population of 40,000, and would be connected to a planned train line between Acre and Karmiel.
“The Arab population in Israel is over 10 times larger then when the country was founded yet the state has created hundreds of Jewish towns and villages, but not one Arab one, besides in the Negev,” Beeri-Sulitzeanu said.
The fund co-director said the land issues, including extremely limited jurisdiction areas of Arab towns and the absence of town plans, constitute a core problem, the solution to which is fundamental for economic development.Reuters and JTA contributed to this report.
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