Tuesday, 19 March 2019

Israeli Government policy and record towards its Arab population

Much derogatory language has been spoken and printed about the official Israeli Government policy toward its Arab population . It is important to put some perspective on this important issue.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said on March 10, 2019, in rebutting the charge that his government has racist tendencies towards the Arabs of Israel, "They have equal rights like all of us, and the Likud government has invested more in the Arab sector than any other government in Israel."
It is vital that we check that record to verify the facts.

On December 30, 2015, the Netanyahu-led government approved a 5-year economic development plan for the Arab sector aimed at tackling the huge gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israel that had been allowed to grow under Netanyahu's predecessors, including a succession of  Labour governments. 
The plan allocated up to fifteen billion shekels (approximately $4.2 billion) for the development of Arab towns and cities to improve education, transportation, welfare services, healthcare, employment, housing, infrastructure, culture and public security., with the aim of improving economic development and giving equal opportunities for the Arab community in Israel. 
The plan, which was agreed by the Netanyahu government in partnership with Arab mayors, not only greatly improved on any previous financial investment into the Arab sector, it gave the Arab sector preferential treatment in an effort to accelerate their integration into Israeli society. 
President Reuven Rivlin praised the plan saying, "This is an important and vital step on the road to closing the gaps which have existed for years." Complementing Netanyahu, Rivlin said, "Clearly there is a long road ahead, but the government's decision, under your leadership, represents a turning point, and an unprecedented confidence-building measure."
Even the left-wing newspaper, Ha'Aretz, and strong critic of the Netanyahu government, and Netanyahu personally, wrote, "The Israeli government did something of historic importance this week and corrected its long standing discrimination against the Arab community."
Prior to this plan, only 5% of the Israeli national budget was allocated to Arab society education, and only 7% to public transportation. Less than 4% of industrial zones in Isael were located in Arab communities before 2015. 
The plan also called for employers to hire Arab workers. It increased the budget for day-care centers, employment counseling centers and for building new schools in Arab communities. 
As a result of this coordinated plan, the number of Arab students on all levels has doubled in the last decade. Israeli Arab students in master's and doctoral level studies , and a percentage of high school graduates has radically improved in that period. Arab enrollment in Israeli medical schools has quickly reached compatibility with their demographic size in Israel and it is even higher in health professions including pharmacists, doctors and nurses, is even higher, as anyone can witness when visiting Israel clinics and hospitals.
The Israeli government plan of 2015 has brought more Arab women into the work force. By creating greater job opportunities and opened their access to education, it has enhanced their position and brought a change in Arab society.
Arab citizens now comprise over 11% of  government employees and rising. Arab participation in Israel's hi-tech professional workforce has gone up from 0.5% in 2008 to 4% today.

Barry Shaw is the International Public Diplomacy Associate at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.  He is the author of the best-selling book "BDS for IDIOTS."


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