Herzog to push for new welfare programs for Bedouin sector

In what could be his last act as Minister of Welfare and Social Services in the current government, Isaac Herzog is to urge the government Sunday to increase welfare programs in the Bedouin sector to the tune of some NIS 50 million for the next five years, his office announced over the weekend. "It is crucial that we improve the services to the Bedouin community in the South," said Herzog in a statement. "They suffer from a wide range of social problems including poverty, polygamy and a weak social infrastructure." According to figures from Herzog's office, the estimated 16,000-strong Bedouin population - which could reach as high as 300,000 by the year 2020 - suffers from between 26-32 percent unemployment, more than three times the national average, and 40% of those who receive state benefits in the South are members of the community. In addition, 70% of Bedouin children live below the poverty line, as compared to the 30% of all Israeli children, said a spokeswoman for the minister.