Israel's Cabinet Creates Two Panels on Haredi, Arab Integration

The two populations are poor, under-educated, under-employed - and growing fast.

Moti Bassok
Haim Bior
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Haredim studying high-tech at the company Ravtech in December 2013. Credit: Eyal Toueg
Moti Bassok
Haim Bior

The cabinet on Sunday created two committees to promote employment in Israel: one for ultra-Orthodox Jews and one for Arabs.

The panels are being formed as the government grapples with how to integrate the two populations into Israel’s economy. While their share of the population growing, both groups suffer from inferior schooling, high rates of poverty and low rates of labor force participation, all of which threaten to depress Israel's economic growth in coming decades.

The task force dealing with the Haredim, which will be headed by Harel Locker, the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office, is being given 60 days to produce a plan for increasing the number of Haredim in the civil service and public sector companies. Among other things, it will explore ways of ensuring more Haredim get the academic education needed for the most skilled civil service jobs and of creating a mechanism to give hiring preference to Haredim.

A proposal submitted by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, who is leading the effort to boost Haredi employment, does not include incentives for Haredi women because, he says, Haredi women are already employed in the civil service in numbers proportionate to their share of the population.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who submitted the proposal to the cabinet, told ministers that the plan was part of a broader effort to coax more Haredim into the workforce. “The Economics Minister and I are doing this to improve the welfare of the Haredi public by integrating it into the general labor force,” he said. “I think this is an important and proper first step and others will follow.”

The Ministerial Committee on the Non-Jewish Sector, as it is formally called, was formed on Sunday with a broader mandate to deal with employment social welfare, education, health and economic development among Israeli Arabs. The effort will be coordinated by the Economic Development Authority for the Minority Sector in the Prime Mister's Office. As a formal matter, the committee, which will be made up of ministers, is to deal with employment among non-Jewish Israelis, but practically speaking, almost all non-Jewish Israelis are Arab.

“The ministerial committee is another tools for advancing the strategic goal of economically and socially integrating the non-Jewish sector into the Israeli economy and will enable ministers to allocate time to the challenges facing us in employment, education, transportation and other issues,” said Netanyahu, who will chair the committee.

Ayman Seif, the director of the economic development authority, will be the only Arab member of the committee.

Arab women working in agriculture.Credit: Alon Ron