Knesset Panel Slams Lack of Arabs in Government Agencies

MK Tibi: Absence of Arabs in these positions means Arabs aren't included in ministries' decision-making processes.

Only six of the 439 Knesset workers are Arabs, according to a report on minority employees at government institutions submitted on Wednesday by United Arab List-Taal MK Ahmed Tibi.

Tibi presented the findings of the interim report, which was commissioned by a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the hiring of Arabs for public sector jobs.
Nazim Bader, the deputy secretary general of the Knesset, is the parliaments most senior Arab official. He was appointed by Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin.

United Arab List Ta’al MK Ahmed Tibi
Olivier Fitoussi

At 1.6 percent, this is one of the lowest figures of Arab representation in public institutions, Tibi wrote in the report. This is the parliament, the temple of Israeli democracy. This institution should lead on all issues relating to hiring Arab workers.

Rivlin also sat on the parliamentary committee of inquiry before he was appointed Knesset speaker. He and Tibi were the only committee members present at all the hearings.

I found the issue very important, not as a patronizing gesture of the majority toward the minority, but in recognition of the fact that this is the way to solve a nationalist conflict, Rivlin said.

According to the committee report, only 1.3 percent of workers in the Prime Ministers Office are Arab. In the Finance Ministry, 1.4 percent of all employees are Arab, while the figure in the Construction and Housing Ministry is 1.8 percent.

The situation in government-run agencies is similar: Arabs comprise 1 percent of the workforce at the Geological Survey of Israel and 1.3 percent at the Israel Electric Company.

The lone bright spot is the Culture and Sports Ministry, which reached the governments target quota of 10 percent.

According to Tibi, the most worrisome part is that no government ministry can boast a Arab deputy director general or legal advisor.

The absence of Arabs in these positions means that Arabs are not included in the ministries decision-making processes, Tibi wrote. This creates a sense of alienation, that serving the state is not intended for Arab workers in general and Arab women in particular.

According to the panels findings, since 2004, successive Israeli governments have passed several resolutions calling for increasing the number of Arab workers in state ministries. In practice, however, the percentage of Arab workers in the public sector is 6 percent, well short of the governments target of 10 percent by 2012.

Not only has the governments fair representation law not been implemented, the panel wrote in its report, it has been used as a pretext to refrain from hiring Arab workers at a rate parallel to Arabs proportion of the general population.

Likud MK Yariv Levin, who serves as chairman of the Knesset House Committee, slammed the report.

The report by the committee headed by MK Tibi is delusional and ignores the fundamental fact that a significant portion of Israels Arabs are disloyal to the state, Levin said. These are people who do not contribute to the state, and even try to undermine it.