Excerpts from Report of the Government Ministries' Activities in the Non-Jewish Sector in 1997
Compiled and Edited by the Office of the
January 1998, Jerusalem
Jerusalem, 4 Tevet 5758
The year of the 50th anniversary of the State of Israel must be a year of national determination among all segments of the population, to work together to ensure reconciliation and equality among the citizens of Israel.
As a concrete expression of this, I decided in October 1997, to go to Kafr Kassem, in order to participate in the memorial service of the Kafr Kassem massacre. I went on my own initiative, because I wished to contribute in this way to repairing the rifts in relations between Jews and Arabs, 41 years after the terrible massacre.
This report reviews the activities of the government ministries and tile governing authorities in the Arab sector. I was pleased to learn, from reports published by independent organizations, that the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs, and the Ministry of Education received important ministries have the most and most frequent contact with the population, Arab and Jewish alike. In spite of the drastic cuts that the government has imposed on itself, in many ministries there is an increase in development budgets for the non-Jewish sector and in the budgets of the Arab local authorities.
The government's policy is one of affirmative action with regard to the non-Jewish sector -- for example, when it comes to reserving positions for Arab college graduates only. On 30/12/97, the Civil Service Commission announced 54 additional positions for Arab college graduates only. It should be emphasized that the rest of the tenders published by the Civil Service Commission are open to the entire public, with no differentiation between Jews and Arabs.
A special government project is now underway: the preparation of master plans and project outlines for 34 non-Jewish localities in the North, at a cost of NIS 13.5 million. The preparation of these plans is being carried out with a view towards the year 2020, in order to solve fundamental problems in the areas of planning, development, industry and housing. This is another decision in the framework of the policy of narrowing existing gaps in the area of master planning.
in the first year of the government's work, it was forced to cut some NIS 7.5 billion, a record budget cut, as a consequence of the deficit that the previous government had left. Nevertheless, the Arab sector and local authorities received a supplement over the regular budget of NIS 55 million, as well as additional development budgets in the amount of NIS 40 million. In the area of education, modem schools have been built in the Arab sector. While the proportion of Israeli Arabs among students is approximately 20%, their share in education development budgets comes to approximately 30%.
The government is about to reduce the costs of developing land for industry, in order to encourage industry in the Arab sector; a tender will soon be issued for industrial zones in several Arab localities. Similarly, the government is encouraging capital investment in agriculture in the Arab sector, as well as the construction of residential apartments on Israel Lands Administration land. Moreover, the Knesset and the government ministries are acting to assist the weaker sectors, including the Arab sector. We must work toward narrowing gaps and creating the basis and infrastructure for progress in education, industry, the economy and other areas.
It is important to note that the situation of citizens in Arab localities was not created in one year; rather, it is a reflection of the political, social and security history of the State of Israel during the fifty years of its existence. At the same time, what the governments of Israel have done for the benefit of the Arab citizens of Israel must be known and appreciated.
With all the desire to improve, improvement cannot be accomplished in a short or limited time; it is, rather, a matter of a process of which we are aware and to which we are committed. We shall do everything to expedite the processes of the total integration of Israel's Arab citizens, and to bring about development and progress in the Arab sector.
There still exist administrative difficulties in the Arab sector, which create deficits, strikes, low percentages of tax collection, municipal instability as a result of rotation agreements, and internecine strife.
in this era, we are making sincere efforts to establish relations of peace with the Arab world, on a firm and stable foundation. Therefore, a responsible, considered and prudent approach on the part of the Arabs of Israel can help in bridging the gaps and attaining true and lasting peace. We anticipate that Israel's Arabs will evince understanding, responsibility, harmony and mutual respect.
In this month of the Ramadan holiday for Muslims, and the beginning of a new year for Israel's Christians, I wish everyone a good year, a year of peace and security, a year of brotherhood, reconciliation and equality.
A. In my humble opinion, it is incumbent upon the Jewish people, as a people that has lived as a minority for thousands of years, to be sensitive to, and have a high degree of consciousness vis-a-vis the minorities living in their midst. I seek to operate in my position in accordance with this belief, to bring hearts together, and to widen the circles of co-existence between Arabs and Jews.
B. The government of Israel, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Katzav, the minister responsible for non-Jewish citizens' affairs, is well aware of the situation of Israel's Arab citizens, is involved in the decisions that are taken and is aware of the importance of their integration into Israeli society. It has publicly announced this and has made declarations in this spirit several times, before representatives of the Arab population and on various occasions.
C. The message that the Prime Minister wishes to emphasize to Arab citizens is one of co-existence, to which both sides are partners, and a message of equality in the realization of which the government has a greater share.
D. Co-existence in our country and Arab-Jewish relations are influenced by a broad spectrum of issues. It is no wonder, for example, that following a week during which a murderous attack was carried out and belligerent statements were made by representatives of Arab Israelis who were visiting Damascus, a public opinion survey appeared in which the Jewish population expressed a certain discomfort vis-a-vis the Arab citizens of Israel. However, as a rule, I see a positive trend of change for the better and of willingness to integrate the Arab population into Israel's society and economy -- as was expressed in the very same survey.
E. In essence, there is no doubt that when matters are compared numerically or statistically, there are problems in the Arab localities and among the Arab population. At the same time, it should be remembered that some of the problems in the non-Jewish sector are rooted in internal problems, such as inefficient administration of councils, clan involvement in administrative considerations, unfulfilled rotation agreements and such which leave the successors with a large deficit. These factors do not contribute, to put it mildly, to improving the situation of the Arab population in Israel.
F. Since I assumed my position, I have introduced a new policy of visiting localities in the non-Jewish sector, with the participation of all the relevant district directors and senior officials, from all the government ministries, as well as government and other companies (representatives of the Electric Co., Bezeq), when problems related to their ministries are raised. The aim is to carry out a working visit, during the course of which efforts are made to solve specific problems. To my great satisfaction, in this area we succeeded more than once in removing obstacles and promoting specific solutions by virtue of coordination during the visit.
G. Recently I initiated the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee comprising advisers for Arab affairs and senior referees to the non-Jewish sector in the various government ministries (the Ministry of the Interior, Housing, Transport, Environment, Education, Infrastructures, Labor and Social Affairs, Ministry of Trade & Industry, Tourism). And this committee is designed to strengthen coordination among the various government ministries and ministers in relation to the non-Jewish sector.
H. As the Prime Minister's Adviser for Arab Affairs, I was called on to deal with a series of issues and problems in relations between government ministries and the non-Jewish population. At the same time, I chose to act also by transmitting the message to government ministries, as well as to non-Jewish citizens, that there is a desire to work to promote equal rights and opportunities in Israel.
The non-Jewish sector's budgets are divided roughly into three categories:
1. Budgets for the individual: This category comprises budgets such as: National Insurance, mortgages and unemployment compensation. Every citizen is entitled to these budgets, and they are transferred automatically to each individual and every citizen, whoever he/she may be.
2. The Local Authorities' Budgets: This budget is given in the form of a "balance grant," which constitutes a balance between the income and expenditure of the local authorities at the Ministry of Finance. In the past, there was segregation among the budgets given to Arabs, Jews and Druze. The gaps among these sectors were wide. This year, it was decided to grant NIS 160 million, in a three-year supplement, to the Arab localities. Similarly, NIS 320 million were allocated to all localities, for the purpose of augmenting the balance grant, from which the non-Jewish sector will also benefit. In addition, NIS I billion were allocated to all the local authorities for the next three years, as a budget to eliminate deficits, as follows:
NIS 500 million in 1998
NIS 300 million in 1999
3. Budget Cuts
In 1997, there was overall agreement as to the need to allocate resources to the non-Jewish sector, in order to narrow gaps, in the spirit of equality. In spite of a drastic cut of approximately NIS 7.5 billion in the state budget, the government ensured that it did not cut most of the budgets allocated for the Arab population. This is borne out by the fact that while cuts have been imposed on other local authorities, allocations to Arab local authorities were not cut. The government ministries' investments in the development budgets for the non-Jewish sector in 1996 totalled NIS 432.4 million. In 1997, the investments totalled 503.9 million. The nominal increase in the state's investments for 1997 is 16.5%. Based on this statistic, there was an increase in investments even in real terms.
4. Development budgets
The development budgets are the "heavy" portion of the state budgets, which are transferred to the non-Jewish sector from all government ministries.
The responses were received directly from the various government ministries, for the preparation of this report.
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Sport
In accordance with a five-year plan, the Ministry of Education undertook to build 170 classrooms per year. In 1993-97, the ministry budgeted for the construction of 1,424 new classrooms -- i.e., an average of 286 classrooms per year; approximately 116 more classrooms than the ministry's commitment according to the five-year plan. In 1997, not only was there no cutback, but there was a special supplement of 70 additional classrooms in the Bedouin sector in the south. In 1998, the construction of 313 classrooms is being planned.
Effective 1.1.98, the Long School Day and Enrichment Studies Law will take effect. 100 localities throughout the country were recommended for the implementation of the law in the academic year 5758, including 39 localities in the non-Jewish sector. The program will also be enacted in neighborhoods in the mixed cities: Jaffa, Ramle, Lod, Akko and Ma'alot-Tarshiha.
The Ministry of the Interior
In spite of the cut in its budget this year, the Ministry of the Interior has decided not to cut a single shekel from the balance grant given to Arab localities; and it has allocated approximately NIS 550 million to the Arab authorities this year. In the context of the necessity to promote equality among the local Arab authorities and the other authorities, the government recognized at the beginning of 1997 a gap of NIS 160 million to equalize with the Jewish authorities (NIS 55 million in 1997, NIS 55 million in 1998, and NIS 50 million in 1999). In this manner, the budget for the Arab sector will be equalized with the average of the Jewish sector.
Another factor in the government's positive attitude towards the non-Jewish sector concerns the planning of master plans and project outlines. The Ministry of the Interior is working for the maximum acceleration of the approval of the master plans and project outlines for Arab localities. Since 1991, 36% of the Arab localities submitted plans which were approved, as compared with only 28% in the Jewish sector.
Here, it should be noted that problems characteristic of the non-Jewish sector localities exist. For various reasons -- clan, family and other -- organizational/ administrative problems exist in many regional councils. One of its manifestations is the very low percentage of collection of municipal taxes (in some localities, 10%-20% or less), which affects the councils' budget, and, as a consequence, the supplementary balance grant from the Ministry of the Interior. Some localities have sought to get help from outside collection companies, and this does indeed assist proper administration. In parallel, we are currently examining methods that should help the local authorities in this critical area.
The Ministry of National Infrastructures
In 1996, a budget of NIS 65 million was at the disposal of the non-Jewish sector, of which NIS 40 million was actually used; and in 1997, the sum of NIS 120 million was at the disposal of the Arab sector -- including the Bedouin localities in the Negev -- three times that used the previous year.
In 1996, the sum of NIS 30 million was invested in the construction of bridges and interchanges, fixing entrances, improving intersections, repairing and widening roads. In 1997, the sum of NIS 40 million was invested.
Israel Lands Administration - (ILA)
A three-year budget of NIS 25 million has been allocated for planning and asphalting infrastructure work. Besides the budget which was approved for the Administration, an additional budget exists for planning and developing infrastructures in the Druze, Bedouin and Circassian sectors, approved by the Ministry of Finance and implemented under the auspices of the Ministry of Construction and Housing. The ILA has allocated some 30 sites in non-Jewish localities, which are categorized as national priority areas A and B, for planning and developing land for industry.
The Israel Electric Corporation
In 1997, 4,000 structures in the non-Jewish sector received approval for regulation connection to the electricity network, in the framework of the Supply of Electricity Law, 5756-1996. It should be noted that the non-connection to the electricity network resulted from the lack of safety features in the relevant housing units; nevertheless, a serious and sincere effort is now being made, in spite of all the problems, to connect them. The Israel Electric Corporation is currently preparing to connect approximately 10,000 housing units in the non-Jewish sector to the electricity network, in the framework of the ministry's five-year plan.
Special Government Project in Cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior, the Israel Lands Administration, and the Prime Minister's Office
In July 1997, a very important decision was taken that, with funding of NIS 13.5 million, master plans/project outlines will be drawn up for 34 localities in the Arab and Bedouin sectors in the north, enabling the development and advancement of these localities, toward the year 2020. The conclusion of the planning process will enable the issue of construction permits and will provide answers to problems that are currently characteristic of Arab localities.
The Ministry of Trade & Industry
In the field of industry, a plan for promoting industry in the non-Jewish sector, by lowering the price of development by 25%, is being drawn up, based on an initiative begun in Kafr Ilabun. There are plans for establishing industrial zones in Arab localities.
The Small Business Authority, with the assistance of the Ministry of Trade and Industry, has opened 5 centers to assist entrepreneurship in the non-Jewish sector: Yarka, Sakhnin, Nazareth, Baka Al-Gharbiye and Rahat.
The Ministry of Construction and Housing
The Ministry of Construction and Housing is currently making intensive efforts in helping localities in the non-Jewish sector. The instructions given to the ministry staff are to ensure strict adherence to the planning dates and the implementation of the projects related to the ministry's realm of operations to encourage the local authorities.
For four years, the Ministry of Construction and Housing has been handling the issue of infrastructures and public institutions in the non-Jewish sector. The objective of the development budgets is to improve the existing infrastructures in the localities; and under the section of public institutions, the ministry helps primarily in the establishment of community centers and sports centers.
The Ministry of Health
In 1997, the Ministry of Health allocated a sum of NIS 7.7 million for activities in the non-Jewish sector. In addition to the aforementioned budget, in the framework of the ministry's policy of narrowing gaps, an additional budgetary sum of almost NIS 3 million was approved for the budgets of the health offices. This sum will be allocated
Since 1993, a budget for closing gaps has been approved, to increase nursing and medical personnel, for the opening of new family health centers which were approved for construction, and which construction has been completed.
The Ministry of Internal Security
The Ministry of Internal Security has adopted a policy of equality of rights and obligations for Arabs in all areas in which the ministry is involved, from recruiting volunteers into the ranks of the Civil Guard to recruiting into the internal security branches: police, Border Guard, the Prison Services Authority. The ministry continues to give first priority to providing equal service to all citizens of Israel, regardless of religion, race or gender, as well as to enforce the laws of the state and to protect people and property.
2,060 police officers from the non-Jewish sector serve in the Israel Police (including the Border Guard).
The Ministry of Transport
The "Netivei Hagalil" Company, a subsidiary of "Netivei Ayalon," obtained approval from the Ministry of Finance for infrastructure development and road paving in Arab localities, under the auspices of the Ministry of Transport. "Netivei Hagalil" operates only in Arab localities, under a multi-year plan, the positive results of which can be seen in many of the localities. In 1997, road widening, paving and infrastructure work was carried out by the "Netivei Hagalil" and "Netivei Carmel" companies in the non-Jewish sector (including Nazareth) for a total of NIS 78.1 million.
The Ministry of Tourism
The Ministry of Tourism is active in a series of tourism projects in the non-Jewish sector, such as the Nazareth Program + 2000, and the Old City in Akko.
In 1995-96, the Government Tourism Corporation (the GTC conducted a survey defining the tourism potential in Arab villages. The survey included approximately 70 villages in northern Israel (from Barkai Junction northwards). The survey included the listing of potential localities, in accordance with a number of criteria: the condition of the locality's infrastructures, its location on a tourist route, the willingness of the authority to invest in tourism development in the locality, the existence of historic or cultural elements, folklore, inter-religious cohabitation, the residents' readiness for tourist development, the statutory status of the locality, and possibilities of developing a network of accommodations in the village.
The Ministry of the Environment
The ministry agrees with the implementation of the principle of equality in the allocation of resources and standards pertaining to Arab localities and is working to improve the quality of the environment in Arab localities, while emphasizing the issue of solid waste handling, environmental education and preventing casualties.
The Ministry of Communications
Advanced communications services serve the entire Israeli population, and they are provided to the non-Jewish sector under the same rules and at the same rates as in all parts of the country.
In the framework of the ministry's efforts to increase competition in telecommunications and the media, the ministry is working, through legislation, for the approval of specific channels, including an Arabic channel.
The Ministry of Agriculture
Inter-ministerial committees were established in the southern district for the planning and development of agricultural areas in the Bedouin localities. The Ministry of Agriculture is working to encourage capital investment in agriculture and other projects, primarily in Rahat and Kalansuwa.
The War on Poverty
There are many reasons for the widespread poverty among the Arab population, which apparently originate from the size of the family, the relatively low wages, and the low level of participation in the work force (primarily by women). In recent years, the government adopted a number of important steps, which led to the reduction of widespread poverty in the non-Jewish sector:
A. Since 1994, child allowances have been equalized for all families in Israel, regardless of army service. This step was implemented gradually over four years; and commencing January, 1997, child allowances paid to all families in Israel, according to family size, are identical. The annual cost of this reform is NIS 640 million.
B. Similarly, the allowances paid to underprivileged population groups -- such as single parent families, the elderly and the infirm -- have been significantly increased. This program has worked to reduce poverty in the non-Jewish population as well.
C. In the framework of the passage of the National Health Law, effective January, 1995, the burden of National Insurance payments and health insurance payments for low-income population groups has been eased greatly. The passage of this law has had a beneficial effect on the non-Jewish population, which is financially weaker.
D. In April 1997, the minimum wage in the economy was raised by 20% per hour of work. There is no doubt that its ramifications for the improvement of the situation of those earning low wages have been significant. The non-Jewish population will benefit from this reform at higher rates.
E. Recently, at the initiative of the Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, a public council for the war on poverty and narrowing income gaps was established to examine these issues thoroughly and draw up a series of recommendations to eradicate the phenomenon of poverty in Israeli society.
Employment of College Graduates in the Civil Service: Affirmative Action
In the area of integrating Arabs and employing college graduates, the current government continues its policy to secure 160 positions for Arab college graduates in the civil service.
Similarly, it should be noted that all the tenders in the civil service are open to the entire Arab population. The government does not use military criteria in order to discriminate against Arabs in the workplace.
The Ministry of Education is the largest governmental employer of teachers and supervisors in the non-Jewish sector: more than 15,000 men and women. The Ministry of Education and Culture is also continuing during this academic year to hire Arab college graduates in the field of professional supervision.
The "Computer for Every Child" Project in the Non-Jewish Sector
The "Computer for Every Child" Project is a socio-educational project designed to help children from underprivileged classes in Israel to acquire skills which will enable them to narrow gaps and improve their chances to compete as adults in the work market. In the framework of the project, 30,000 Pentium computers will be distributed over the next five years to 30,000 households in Israel, and according to estimates, will reach 90,000 children.
The project is being led by Israeli businessmen who have undertaken to contribute a third of the total budget, which reaches $50 million. The project is under the patronage of the Prime Minister, who has committed to a third of the budget from government sources. The final third will come from the local authorities.
The first locality in which the project was inaugurated was the city of Tamra, where 109 computers were given to Arab children. Second in line was the city of Ramle, a mixed city, and it demonstrates this government's desire to act to narrow gaps. At the beginning of December, the Prime Minister and Minister Moshe Katzav visited Bedouin localities in the Negev. Inter alia, they visited Tel-Sheva, where 120 computers were delivered to Bedouin students. It is important to note that up until the time that the project was underway, there were 5 computers in Rahat, for a population of approximately 14,000 residents.
The "Computer for Every Child" Project demonstrates that the issue of equality in the non-Jewish sector is one of which the government is aware and is acting to promote, through a policy of affirmative action. According to experts' calculations, over the next five years the project will provide computers for approximately 20,000 Arab children who have no chance, from a socio-economic standpoint, of acquiring a personal computer through their parents. The computers are loaded with hundreds of various educational programs, modems, fax and Internet.
Source: Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs