An important bill sponsored by MK Ayman Odeh that would mandate construction of a hospital in Sakhnin unleashed a storm in the Knesset on Wednesday. Members of the ruling coalition treated the draft law as successful political trolling by the opposition instead of as a trivial demand that the government itself should have proposed and advanced.
There is no disputing that northern Israel needs an additional hospital. But instead of building it in an Arab city, the current government is sticking with a plan approved by previous governments to build it in Kiryat Ata, which is less than 20 kilometers (12.5 miles) from Haifa’s Rambam Medical Center. In the area of Sakhnin, however, there is no hospital within a radius of over 30 kilometers. Just a reminder: The population of Sakhnin exceeds 32,000, and more than 25,000 people live in nearby Arabeh.
At the level of principle, too, this is a misjudgment. How is it possible that, 73 years after the state was founded, not one Arab city in Israel has a public or government hospital? This is a decades-long failure, and it’s time to correct it. Such a hospital would provide health care for the population of this region and also serve as an important source of employment, particularly in light of the steady increase in the number of Arab Israelis in medical and paramedical professions.
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The government’s five-year plan for the Arab community has many positive elements. But for a so-called government of change, which includes an Arab party, building a hospital in an Arab city must be a practical goal that should be implemented in the next few years. That’s especially true since it plans to build another hospital in the north in any case, so all that’s needed is to move the location from one area to another, where the need is greater.
This is a sufficiently important issue from a national perspective that the coalition and opposition should have risen above the petty political disputes so typical of the Knesset. It’s a pity that for now, the coalition is busy with the question of how to punish rebel MKs like Mazen Ghanayim, a former Sakhnin mayor who voted with the opposition in favor of the bill, rather than dealing with the substance of the issue and making the necessary decision.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.