Some 90 percent of a special budget to boost the Arab-Israeli sector has been allocated by the government, but the Arab localities receiving the funding have used only 62 percent of it, the Knesset’s Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs has learned.
Minister for Social Equality Meirav Cohen presented the data in a meeting of the Special Committee on Monday, chaired by Knesset Member (MK) Mansour Abbas of the Islamist Ra’am party. The committee deals with the implementation of Government Resolution 922 on investment of resources in Arab society.
In 2016, the government led by Benjamin Netanyahu passed Resolution 922, an unprecedented, five-year, NIS 12-15 billion economic development plan for Israel’s Arab society, setting in motion a significant number of programs and development projects.
Cohen provided data on the utilization of the budget for Resolution 922, which showed that 90 percent of the budget had been allocated.
“Resolution 922 allocated NIS 10.7 billion, not 15. Last year we faced a dilemma whether to present another five-year plan or to extend the existing plan, and we decided to extend 922, since there were a lot of unimplemented budgets,” she said.
“Following this [decision], NIS 9.6 billion out of 10.7 have been allocated up to now. The challenge is to prepare the follow-up plan, 923, and to address areas that haven’t been addressed, such as health, social services, violence against women and more,” she said.
Cohen summed up by saying that she expected the new plan to “turn over a new leaf” with the Arab public in Israel, and to “succeed in reducing the gaps.”
Director of the Authority for the Economic Development of the Minorities Sector Hassan Tawafra commented on the utilization of the development budgets.
Tawafra showed that the plan was budgeted at NIS 10.7 billion, of which NIS 9.7 billion were allocated, and only slightly over NIS 6 billion were expended in cash, about 62 percent, not including education budgets.
Finance Ministry representative Maayan Spivak asserted that the Arab local authorities were not used to receiving development budgets and therefore did not know how to utilize them.
According to her, there are local authorities that are not taking advantage of the tens of millions of shekels given to them for projects.
To overcome this obstacle, authorities have been assigned liaisons to help them utilize resources.