PM Netanyahu (3L)with Joint Arab List Chairman Ayman Udah (C), other Arab lawmakers and government officials. (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO) (Amos Ben Gershom/GPO)
Joint Arab List

Israel has launched a generous, multi-year initiative aimed at economic integration of the Arab community and the reduction of social gaps.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced Monday afternoon a multi-million-shekel project to boost the Arab minority in Israel.

At a meeting on Monday, Netanyahu, together with PMO Director General Eli Groner, Joint Arab List Chairman Ayman Udah, Members of Knesset (Parliament) Ahmed Tibi, Jamal Zahalka and Masud Ganaim, and Arab Local Councils Forum Chairman Mazan Ganaim, discussed new ways to advance the Arab public in Israel.

Representatives from the Finance and Social Equality ministries also attended.

All agreed on an outline for a project to begin with 30 days, which includes a NIS 900 million ($237 M) multi-year plan aimed at economic integration of the Arab community and the reduction of social gaps.

An agreement was also reached on one-time budgetary supplements to strengthen Arab-sector local councils.

In addition, the forum decided on the implementation of a cooperation mechanism to be set up with the Union of Local Authorities and councils. The various plans will be formulated and implemented by the relevant ministries in full cooperation with the councils and society representatives.

In 2015, the budget for Arab-sector local councils will be increased by NIS 150 million, of which NIS 50 million will be allocated to development budgets.

Additionally, NIS 350 million will be used for programs for outstanding local councils over the next five years.

The objective is to create economic growth engines that will lead to increased revenues. The plan is also designed to encourage organizational change through increased efficiency and filling essential positions.

Israel Arab vote

An Israeli-Arab casts her vote. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Millions will be allocated towards informal education, including community centers, youth movements and other ventures aimed at improving the lives of Arabs living in Israel.

I am the Prime Minister of all citizens of Israel,” Netanyahu stated after the meeting. “The assistance plan that we decided on today is a significant rectification and an additional step designed to integrate the Arab citizens of Israel into Israeli society as equals among equals.”

Approximately 20 percent of Israel’s eight million citizens are Arabs. According to the Israeli Democracy Index of 2014, 65 percent are proud to be Israeli.

This project to support the Arab public comes after the Israeli cabinet approved a proposal by Netanyahu and Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon in June for an unprecedented NIS 2.2 billion ($775 M), five-year plan for the advancement of the Druze and Circassian communities.

By: Max Gelber, United with Israel