The Arab village of Jisr al-Zarqa.
The Arab village of Jisr al-Zarqa. Photo by Nimrod Glickman
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Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu frequently boasts of the favorable conditions enjoyed by Arabs in Israel, which he says causes them to prefer the comfortable life of a minority in a Jewish state to any alternative in the region.

The financial reports of Israel’s local government show a less rosy picture. As reported by Meirav Arlosoroff in TheMarker, per capita spending for municipal services in Arab communities is 527 shekels a year. That’s about half of the national average in Jewish communities, 40 percent of the average for poor Jewish communities and about a third of the average in wealthier Jewish communities.

Finance Ministry Budget Director Amir Levy corroborated these figures when he told TheMarker that the treasury allocates less money to Arabs in Israel than to Jewish Israelis. “There are vast gaps in the resources allocated to public transportation, in the distribution of revenues from property taxes paid by businesses, in industrial investment and in education,” Levy said.

Especially troubling is the spending gap in the areas in which Arabs in Israel are in need of the greatest assistance, in education and in social services. The Arab communities are the poorest in the country. As a result, a greater proportion of their population needs welfare and other social services. In addition, the Arab school system is foundering and lags far behind the Jewish education system.

But while the needs of the Arab local authorities are greater than their Jewish counterparts, the funds they receive from the state are at best comparable to the latter (in education) and at worst fall far below (58 percent less for social services).

Since the Arab local governments have no resources of their own to add, the result is that those most in need of assistance receive the smallest budgets for social services and the weakest school system receives the smallest education budget.

The state keeps its Arab citizens in municipal ghettos, rife with poverty, ignorance and neglect. Instead of taking action to improve living conditions through differential allocations and the provision of administrative assistance to the Arab local authorities, the state encourages the perpetuation of the gaps between Arabs and Jews in Israel.

Even if the Arab mayors bear significant responsibility for their communities’ wretched situation, it is nonetheless very much the responsibility of the state, which does not take action to improve their governance and, more important, prevents them from being able to raise their revenues by not expanding their borders and giving them more land. The current approach will lead to increased poverty and hardship for Israeli Arabs and the entire economy.