Arab, Druze and Bedouin Towns Slated for Tax Benefits

Residents of towns on the list will receive income tax discounts of between 7% and 18%.

AP

Some 48 Arab, Druze and Bedouin communities are now eligible for tax benefits after the Knesset Finance Committee approved new criteria Tuesday.

Under the latest criteria, the income tax benefits will be given out to residents of communities that are close to Israel’s borders, are of lower socioeconomic status and are far from major cities. The list includes 407 communities and will cost the state an estimated 1.35 billion shekels. The criteria are up for final approval in the Knesset on Wednesday.

Residents of towns on the list will receive income tax discounts of between 7% and 18%.

The previous list had included 182 towns. Only 11 were Arab locales, and two were mixed Jewish-Arab. They were included only after non-Jewish towns petitioned the High Court of Justice, arguing that the program was racially discriminatory.

The tax benefit program first came up for review in the High Court back in 2005 over accusations of discrimination. Since then, the state has not managed to draft criteria for inclusion that met the justices’ approval.

The High Court is due to debate in December a petition by several Arab and Druze towns against the current criteria.

Some 60 Jewish settlements in the West Bank that representatives of Habayit Hayehudi had sought to include were left off the list. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised party chairman Naftali Bennett to try to help these communities through other legislation.

The new list includes the four Druze villages in the Golan Heights.