PM, Ethiopian olim differ on solving problems

Cabinet approves new plan to improve conditions, but Ethiopian leaders reject it as token fix to massive problem.

Protesting against discrimination in Jerusalem 390 (photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
Protesting against discrimination in Jerusalem 390
(photo credit: Baz Ratner/Reuters)
The cabinet on Sunday approved Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's plan to improve conditions for Israelis of Ethiopian descent.
But leaders of the Ethiopian community had rejected the plan as being a token fix to a massive problem. Community representatives said that the plan is a fig leaf to cover up the fact that the government has no intention of seeking serious fixes to the community's problems, and had asked ministers to vote the plan down.
The plan included expanding granting special rights to Ethiopians to get loans to buy their own properties. However, studies have shown that the percentage of Ethiopians taking advantage of such programs has dropped dramatically in recent years.
The reason, according to Ethiopian leaders, is that the loans are not large enough to make the properties affordable. Once people from the Ethiopian community realize that they cannot afford the monthly mortgage payment, they drop out of the program or decide not to apply in the first place.
Community leaders also complained that the loan grants are designated for buying properties in highly specific areas which effectively segregates Ethiopians to certain neighborhoods.
The new plan also did not sufficiently address systematic discrimination against renting or selling to Ethiopians in certain areas.
Another one of the biggest objections of the community leaders was that the final proposal was made without consulting them.
At an earlier stage, the Ethiopian community was consulted and its leaders offered significant changes to the government's proposed plan.
According to community leaders, the government ignored the proposed changes in the final plan that it approved.
Responding Sunday to the government's approval of a plan supposedly designed to improve conditions for the Ethiopian community, Kadima MK Shlomo Mollo said in a statement that the government's decision was nothing new and did nothing to substantively improve the lives of Ethiopians.
His statement added that the decision is just a recycling of earlier solutions which failed to seriously address the discrimination that Ethiopians face in a range of areas of life.
"This decision is just another one which will gather dust on the prime minister's shelf," said Mollo, noting that, "its only purpose is public relations."
Mollo concluded that the new plan presented no real solutions to the problems voiced in large rallies a few months ago by the Ethiopian community and supporters across the country.