Arab officials have expressed outrage at the government’s decision to delay by three days a vote on a major five-year plan involving funding in huge segments of Arab municipalities.
The government postponed the vote until Wednesday on a NIS 15b funding plan for education, transportation, housing and employment because the targeted cities did not include mixed Arab-Jewish populations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Services Minister Gila Gamliel created the plan allegedly hoping to change the way government allocates its funding for such purposes.
The ministers were reportedly hoping to give a swift economic push for development of Arab society in Israel, thereby narrowing the gaps between the Jewish and Arab populations.
But Likud Science Minister Ofir Akunis and Culture Minister Miri Regev both objected to the plan due to its lack of balance.
“It’s very important to include the mixed cities,” said Regev. “We’re allowed to represent them and we should not apologize because they [the mayors] are from Likud … not all of them are. We’re talking about Haifa, Tel Aviv-Yafo (Jaffa), Ramle, Lod and Akko – these billions of shekels need to serve the Arab public in mixed cities as well,” she said.
If passed, NIS 1.2 billion will be allocated to promote construction in Arab municipalities and NIS 1.4 billion will be used to improve public transportation in local authorities. For example, information about public schedules will be translated to Arabic for the first time and there will be an increase for subsidies to public transportation in Arab communities.
A full 40 percent of the State of Israel public transportation budget will be used in the Arab sector. In addition, 32.5 percent of funding in the economic development and employment sector will be allocated in 2016 to the development of industrial zones in Arab municipalities. Plus, 17.5 percent of the Small and Medium Business Agency budget will be allocated to Arab sector businesses.
The plan also includes significant investment in Arab sector education, particularly in the field of training educators in both elementary and higher education.
But nothing ever seems to be enough: Arab officials were outraged by the decision to postpone the vote three days, till Wednesday.Hana Levi Julian