(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
'Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it,” said Scottish-born writer and social reformer Frances Wright.
This quote came to mind as the cabinet approved a landmark billion-dollar budget for Arab citizens and other minority populations in order to reduce social gaps and improve the living conditions of this sector.
The special NIS 15 billion economic development plan, which will be spread out over five years, will be devoted to education, transportation, road infrastructure, employment initiatives, housing, culture, sports and other areas.
This is dramatic breaking news.
It is a historic and critically important step toward reducing social gaps and advancing equality in Israel.
Indeed, for the first time, the government is changing the allocation mechanisms in government ministries so that Israel’s Arab citizens – who make up a fifth of the country’s population – will receive their relative share of the state budget.
This special budget, which was put forward by my ministry in cooperation with the Prime Minister’s Office and the Finance Ministry, provides an immediate answer for local authorities to improve the lives of their residents.
It must be said outright that this economic development plan is a win-win for the State of Israel. Period.
A higher education, lower unemployment rate and better jobs for Israel’s minority groups do not just mean that these communities will be stronger and better-off. They also means a stronger, better Israel.
With better opportunities and stronger law enforcement, it will also translate into a more secure Israel.
As my ministry encompasses gender as well as minority equality, I also want to see Arab women more involved in society, both in employment and in academia. This is critical to their integration in the state.
It is our duty. It is our moral obligation.
Since its founding, Israel has been committed to a vision of a society of equal opportunity. Our Declaration of Independence guarantees equal rights for all citizens – regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion.
Unfortunately, over the past decades segments of the population – including minorities – have fallen behind. This is a stain on us all.
But we are determined to change this. We want to see the Arab sector fully integrated in our society. We want them to be full partners in our Israel.
Together we can make this country better.
Together we will make this country better.
The writer is minister for social equality in Israel.