Arab town - Olivier Fitoussi - October 11 2010
The Arab neighborhood of Dahiyat al-Salam. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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A wide-ranging study analyzing current government investment in Arab communities shows that it is rising. But, at the same time, the survey says, this is hardly sufficient to close the gaps between Israel's Arab and Jewish populations.

The results of the study, carried out by economist Kareen Abu Ria of the Mossawa Center, were released yesterday at a conference organized by MK Talab al-Sana (United Arab List-Ta'al ), a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, and attended by economists, MKs and government ministers.

Based on an analysis of the government's official budget book, the study shows that funds designated for development rose to 6.25 percent this year, in comparison to 5 percent in 2011. But half the increase was carried over from the budgets of previous years.

The budget under discussion is the result of the government's decision to allocate a total of NIS 4 billion to Arab communities over the next four years: NIS 800 million in 13 large population centers; NIS 1.2 billion for development in the Negev (dependent on the removal of the residents of Bedouin villages that are not officially recognized by the government ); NIS 680 million for Druze communities and NIS 360 million for Bedouin communities in the north. Approximately NIS 1 billion is intended for grants to local Arab governmental authorities.

The study notes that about 30 Arab communities remain without any program focused on their difficult economic situations; it recommends the immediate budgeting of designated funds in order to plug the gaps already noted in surveys of various government ministries.

According to the researchers, their analysis shows that the three government offices that discriminate the most against Arabs are the ministries of Tourism, Agriculture and Development of the Negev and Galilee. The Tourism Ministry budget for 2012 is NIS 354 million, including NIS 88 million for tourist development, with only a small part allocated for Arab areas, most of which is earmarked for hotel construction.

The Agriculture Ministry has a budget of NIS 702 million, NIS 137 million of which is intended for investment. Of that, only NIS 479,000 - or 0.35 percent - is earmarked for "minority" villages.

The Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministry budget stands at NIS 168 million. Even though most Arab communities in Israel are located in these areas, the ministry has no budgets earmarked for the Arab population at all.

An Agriculture Ministry spokesman commented that, "of the 2012 budget (NIS 120 million designated for the development of public tourism infrastructure ), NIS 17 million will be invested in Arab communities. In addition, the ministry will invest NIS 25 million in aid to minority developers for hotel construction, and a separate budget of NIS 16 million to encourage entrepreneurs in the Arab sector, for the establishment of small tourism businesses and bed-and-breakfast units. This year the ministry will meet the government's goal of 10 percent minority participation in its workforce."

A spokesman for the Development of the Negev and Galilee Ministry noted that "the ministry has invested NIS 85 million in projects aimed at the Arab sector. It has established and promotes projects that are making great changes in that sector"