Arab sector funding cut could spark rebellion, warns Herzog

Opposition leader says equality between Israeli Arabs and Jews must be achieved

Herzog visiting an Arab town in the North  (photo credit: (JCCMANHATTAN/FLICKR.COM)
Herzog visiting an Arab town in the North
The government’s decision to cut 500 million shekels that had been earmarked for strengthening communities in the Arab sector is a clear example of its racist decision to ignore rightful demands for equality and social justice, opposition leader Isaac Herzog said.
Speaking on Monday, the Zionist Union leader warned that the move might have extreme consequences for Israeli society.
Herzog added that the decision to cut the funding was a continuation of a rift that he said the government had created during the elections, referring to anti-Arab comments made by Netanyahu during the election campaign in March when he urged rightwing voters to go and vote because, “Arab voters are going en masse to the polls.” The opposition leader said that the cuts would lead Israel to a place “we don’t want to arrive and must not arrive at – even to the point of civilian rebellion.”
The comments were made in the town of Tamra during a tour of Arab communities in the North, one day after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu canceled a similar tour after he reportedly learned that his presence there was not welcome.
“Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who canceled his visit to Sakhnin, must understand that Arab-Israelis are not putty in his hands for propaganda purposes and they are not targets for his fear tactics. They are citizens with equal rights who must be provided with jobs, education, and health,” Herzog said.
“Peace, democracy, and equality start here in Tamra and in Sakhnin,” he said, referring to two Arab towns that he visited as part of the tour.
“I am not afraid of the citizens of Israel, Arabs or Jews. Those who incite against them need to understand that to apologize does not correct the discrimination and the injustice,” he said.
Responding to Herzog’s remarks, Ghazal Abu Raya, spokesman for the Sakhnin Municipality and director of the northern branch of the Hashomer Hatza’ir movement’s Givat Haviva educational institute, told The Jerusalem Post that “We appreciate every step or initiative to close the gaps between the two sectors [Jewish and Arab].”
“For more than 67 years we haven’t seen any practical strategy to close the gap “Netanyahu and Herzog talk about helping the Arab sector, but we need to see action back up the talk. We need to move to a situation where there is a culture of equality, not of discrimination,” the spokesman said.
Netanyahu met with Arab leaders to discuss ways of bridging gaps in areas such as employment, education, transportation, and housing a couple of weeks ago.
Sakhnin Mayor Mazen Ganaim, chairman of the committee of Arab municipal authorities, told the Post at the time that the meeting with the prime minister “was positive without a doubt.” In the wake of the meeting, Netanyahu said that he would create a ministerial committee that would meet each month to deal with problems in the Arab sector.
Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Senior Citizens Minister Gila Gamliel met with Arab members of the Knesset and community leaders on Sunday in order to ensure that the Finance Ministry is committed to addressing issues in Arab society.
Arab MKs requested that house demolitions in their constituencies be frozen for a period of three years.
Kahlon said there will be practical solutions and asked for project proposals.
Gamliel, who initiated the meeting, said that she requested the creation of a staff to work on these issues in conjunction with the Finance Ministry.
Zionist Union MK Zuheir Bahloul welcomed the initiative and said that he hopes words will lead to action.