Israel's coalition passes Ra'am's controversial electric bill

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation rejected a bill on Sunday that would have established a national day of mourning to commemorate the victims of the 1956 Kfar Kassem massacre.

An empty Knesset Plenum  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
An empty Knesset Plenum
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s cabinet approved the largest ever allocations to the Arab sector on Sunday, when it voted for a five-year NIS 33 billion plan.

More than NIS 30 billion were allocated to bridging the gaps between the Jewish and Arab sectors. The money will go toward economic development, job training, innovation, high tech, building thousands of homes and improving the education and health care systems in the sector.

The government also allocated NIS 2.5 billion for fighting crime in the Arab sector.

“There is a national need to make every effort to advance the development of Arab communities, along with improving security and fighting organized crime in Arab society,” Defense Minister Benny Gantz said.

Earlier, a controversial bill of Ra’am (United Arab List) MK Waleed Taha that would enable Arab and Bedouin homes built illegally to be connected to the national electric grid was passed by the coalition in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation on Sunday.

 Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV) Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked is seen speaking at the Jerusalem Post annual conference at the Museum of Tolerance in Jerusalem, on October 12, 2021. (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)

Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked toned down the bill and applied it to half the places originally intended, where building plans have been partially approved.

Taha, who chairs the Knesset Interior Committee, had threatened to prevent the passage of the state budget and initiate elections if the bill was not advanced.

“The bill fulfills a basic civic right,” Taha tweeted after the vote. “It is unacceptable and wrong to make this a political issue. Those seeking political gain should look elsewhere, instead of depriving Arab citizens of basic rights.”

The Ministerial Committee on Legislation rejected a bill on Sunday that would have established a national day of mourning to commemorate the victims of the 1956 Kfar Kassem massacre in which 48 Israeli Arabs were killed.

Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej (Meretz), who, like Taha, is from Kfar Kassem, asked to delay the vote on the bill of Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman in order to give the government time to consider its own strategy on the subject and coordinate it with the opposition.

The Joint List intends to bring the bill to a vote in the Knesset plenum on Wednesday in an effort to embarrass Ra’am and Meretz MKs and ministers, especially Taha and Frej, who have introduced similar bills in the past.

Last week, Joint List MK Ahmad Tibi succeeded in passing a bill calling for a commission of inquiry on education in the Arab sector with the support of Likud, the Religious Zionist Party, Shas and United Torah Judaism.