Significant New Investment in Israeli-Arab Communities

14 January 2016

The Israeli government has approved a plan to remedy the longstanding neglect of Palestinian-Israeli citizens in terms of national budget allocations.

The five-year plan revises some of the existing discriminatory funding formulas within the Israeli budget into calculations based on equality. In so doing, it substantially increases allocations to Palestinian-Israelis through a new and fairer division of the budget. NIF grantee Sikkuy worked intensively with the Finance Ministry and the Arab municipalities, and submitted comments to the plan that led to its improvement.

As a result of the decision, around 15 main budgetary formulas will be revised, including employment and industry, highways and infrastructure, funds for local authorities, public transportation, housing, public security, and education, ensuring that Arab citizens will receive at least 20 percent of the budget in each area. In some cases, the plan provides for affirmative action (of up to 40 percent) to compensate for decades of inequality and neglect.

Sikkuy called the decision “an important and especially welcome day for anyone who seeks to advance equality between Arab and Jewish citizens…This is an especially significant day for Sikkuy’s professional staff that has worked diligently for many years vis-a-vis the government ministries to advance the principle that reduction of gaps and advancing equality will only be possible through profound changes in the discriminatory mechanisms and the transition to an allocation mechanism based on equality. Without a doubt, the plan as authorized, adopts the approach that Sikkuy has advanced for many years – and we praise it. If the plan is completely implemented, it will succeed in reducing a large measure of the gaps in budget allocations for Arab citizens and will bring about an unprecedented change in their socio-economic status.”

Following the plan’s adoption, senior members of the government publicly doubted that the plan would be implemented as passed, with the prime minister reportedly tasking two hardline cabinet officials with drawing up conditions that Arab citizens would need to meet for the plan to go forward. The role of civil society groups like Sikkuy will continue to be critically important in presuring the government to ensure the implementation of new plan.