Closing the Gap Between Israel's Arabs and Jews

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One out of every five citizens in the State of Israel today is an Arab. Nonetheless, for most of the Jews living in Israel, the Arabs are transparent. They do not meet them in the street since most Arabs live in separate towns or in separate neighborhoods inside mixed cities.

They also don’t meet them at work since Arabs have a hard time making their way in the Israeli labor market, and certainly have a very hard time filling desirable jobs. They also don’t meet them in government offices since the government itself does not meet the goals it set for itself for employing Arabs − only 7.8 percent of government workers are Arabs. And of course their children don’t meet Arab children since the Arab state educational system is separate from the Jewish one.

That is how the State of Israel lives as two separate states, one Arab and one Jewish, and the gap between the two countries in terms of standard of living, income level, quality of education and employment rate is enormous. This is the gap between the Jewish state of Israel, which is a developed Western nation, and the Arab state of Israel, which is no more than a Third World country.

Now two senior researchers have come forward, Prof. Eran Yashiv, head of Tel Aviv University’s Department of Public Policy, and Dr. Nitza Kasir of the Bank of Israel’s Research Department, and quantified the huge price the State of Israel pays for being two countries within one state. Based on Yashiv and Kasir’s estimates, Israel loses tens of billions of shekels because of the employment and educational backwardness of Israeli Arabs. In their estimation, if Israel would succeed in closing the gap from which the Arabs suffer, the state would benefit from an additional NIS 40 billion through 2030 and some NIS 120 billion by 2050.

The calculations reveal that in order to close this gap, it is necessary to make an enormous investment in the Arab population: Some NIS 8 billion over the next five years. But the return on investment will be unrivaled and reach an annual return of 7.3 percent. Clearly, it is a supreme Israeli interest to invest incredible efforts to help Arab citizens acquire education and integrate into the Israeli labor market.

An Israeli-Arab woman walks down the street. Credit: Yaron Kaminsky

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