Arab Development Plans Stunted in Israel Due to Budget Issues

The plan, intended to support economic development in Israel's Jewish-Arab mixed cities after last year's riots, has yet to see the light of day

Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury
A youngster surveils the damage done by a rioting mob in Acre's Old City last week.
A youngster surveils the damage done by a rioting mob in Acre's Old City, May 2021.Credit: Rami Shllush
Jack Khoury
Jack Khoury

Budget issues have hampered an ambitious government plan to promote socioeconomic development among the Arab population in Israel's Arab-Jewish cities, says the Social Equality Ministry.

The plan, slated to cost hundreds of millions of shekels, was drawn up after last year's riots in mixed cities amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The intention, as detailed in an October government resolution, was to reduce economic gaps between Arabs and Jews in those cities by 2026.

After several months invested in formulating the multiyear plan, officials say they have run into difficulties securing the necessary money to fund it, according to a letter sent from the Authority for the Economic Development of Minorities to the Abraham Initiatives NGO.

Officials have had trouble "finding ministerial budgetary sources" to pay for the plan, said officials in the letter. The total budget, intended for education, housing and development projects, was set to total up to 300 million shekels from 2022 to 2026: half from the Finance Ministry, and up to 150 million from other participating ministries.

Aside from the budget issue, several local government heads in the mixed cities are opposed to earmarking the funds exclusively to Arab neighborhoods, say senior officials in the Social Equality Ministry and the Authority for the Economic Development of Minorities. They are demanding that the funds instead be allocated to local authorities so that those officials can work to promote projects within the cities, including in both Arab and mixed neighborhoods.

This demand was also reflected in recent discussions in the Knesset. The minorities development authority argues that its role is not to allocate money to local authorities, and that the purpose of the original plan is to help the Arab populations of those cities and to narrow the gaps between Arabs and Jews living there.

Thabet Abu Rass and Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu, co-executive directors of the Abraham Initiatives, called on the government ministries to fulfill their commitments and to implement the plan as soon as possible. In past Arab development efforts, they said, mixed-city populations have been skipped over – so these communities require special attention.

"This neglect was also reflected in events experienced by these cities a year ago,” they said.

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