The cabinet approved on Monday a five-year plan for Israeli Bedouin communities through 2026, part of a larger development initiative for Israeli Arabs totaled at over 5 billion shekels, or around $1.6 billion.
The plan builds on the 3 billion shekel, five-year plan that ended in 2021. The Citizens’ Empowerment Center in Israel found that during the first four years of that plan, 46 percent of the planned actions were implemented, 37 percent were partially implemented and 17 percent were not implemented.
The Department for Socioeconomic Development of the Bedouin Society drew up both plans with input from a dozen governmental ministries. Its focuses range from employment and infrastructure to education and youth programs, with the authors stating that the plan was born of “the need to strengthen” Bedouin “socioeconomic resilience” and to reduce “significant gaps” between them and the rest of Israeli society.
To close these gaps, the plan's budget includes investing in human capital, advancing business and technological innovation, planning industrial zones, advancing small and medium-sized businesses, training in business Hebrew, training for engineering, increasing employment and establishing a 10 million shekel fund to support small entrepreneurial and vocational training projects.
The state will further allocate 7 million shekels to promote domestic tourism in Bedouin communities. The Negev and Galilee Development Ministry will allocate about 25 million shekels a year to economic and community development and for informal education. Emphasis will be put on establishing day care centers.
The plan allocates 30 million shekels to help teens gain access to higher education and employment. A program will be created to help Bedouin teens integrate into the wider Israeli society. 37.5 million shekels are to go into bolstering science and technology education “and to strengthen applied research into Negev Bedouin society.”
The Agriculture Ministry will advance a master plan for organizing Bedouin farming and invest 105 million shekels in mapping flocks, eradicating Brucella, building pens and other agriculture infrastructure and creating agricultural employment.
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For its part, the Interior Ministry will draft a 232 million shekel plan to empower local governments. It will focus on human capital, organizational management, infrastructure development, employment and creating income sources. Some funds will be results-based as an incentive.
The ministry will also emphasize accessibility to public institutions and will be responsible for building service centers in Rahma, Abda and Hashem Zana, Bedouin villages that gained official state recognition in November.
The service centers will also serve residents of unrecognized villages due to be annexed to the new localities – the first time the cabinet is providing services to these residents of its own volition rather than based on a High Court of Justice ruling. 35 million shekels will go to paving roads from the unrecognized villages to the service centers and schools.
The Transport Ministry will prepare within two months a 58.5 million shekel plan for infrastructure development in Bedouin communities. The National Road Safety Authority will add 24.5 million shekels for its activities. 17.5 million shekels will go to roads connecting localities and 164.5 million shekels will go to internal roads. More money will go into public transportation for the bigger localities.
The Environmental Protection Ministry will receive 96 million shekels to build and implement an environmental plan. The Construction and Housing Ministry will manage 95 million shekels for building public institutions, developing and rehabilitating infrastructure in older neighborhoods and planning infrastructure to accommodate natural growth in Rahat and other authorities. Another 220 million shekels will be invested in water and sewage projects.
A team representing the 15 ministries and organizations will assemble a plan to expedite building permits in recognized villages and encourage residents of unrecognized villages to move to the recognized ones.
Civil society will also get a 99 million shekel boost, with most of the money going to grants for organizations. 114 million shekels will go to narrowing gaps in health services, while the Social Affairs Ministry is to spend 72 million shekels to manage issues like violence, emergency preparation, human capital, coexistence in the Negev and refurbishing welfare buildings. It will also get 7 million shekels to build new welfare institutions, 40 million shekels to care for at-risk children under age 3 and 500,000 shekels to increase accessibility inside communities. Another 14 million shekels will go to a program for assisting people in debt.
The Culture and Sports Ministry will allocate 94 shekels for building and refurbishing sports facilities and 17 million shekels to promote competitive sports. The ministry will also use 58 million shekels for building and refurbishing cultural facilities and establishing new cultural groups.
The Public Security Ministry will promote community policing, continue operating a program to encourage youths to join the police force and deploy technologies to prevent violence. The public defender, meanwhile, will develop a program for rehabilitating former convicts, with an emphasis on minors and young adults.
The Education Ministry will get 190 million shekels to develop and implement a pedagogic master plan for increasing the number of academic students, especially in the exact sciences. A regional science high school, probably in Rahat, will be opened. Other goals are to reduce the number of dropouts, improve Hebrew and Arabic literacy and increase the professionalism of school staff members. The ministry is to build 300 new classes and kindergartens and a youth village.
Hoda Abu Obayed of the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civic Equality said the fact that the new plan is needed indicates that the previous two plans didn’t reduce gaps as they should have. “A thorough review of the previous two plans is needed,” she said.
“Negev Bedouin women should be the plan’s main target population because they are the least employed group. Work conditions, transportation, day care centers and employment centers should be adapted to them. Another way of helping them is removing the obstacles to regional employment development in communities.”