Government Action in the Arab
On its establishment, the Barak Government determined that inequality relating to the Arab population was an
issue of the highest priority. This policy has resulted from an awareness of
growing inequality over recent years. The Government has taken action in two
areas: in the first sphere, each government minister has chosen to take action
within the scope of his or her ministry. A special emphasis may be placed on
the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of
Justice, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Internal Security and the
Ministry of Industry and Trade.
A number of these Ministries have
already implemented affirmative action policies. For example, the Ministry of
Education committed itself to completing its five-year plan for Bedouin in the
South within three years (instead of five, as originally planned). The
Ministry also intends to establish a college for Arabs, to ensure that the
departments allocate at least 25 per cent of funds from their budgets to Arab
education (a higher proportion than that of Arabs living in Israel) and to
establish ten cultural centers in Arab villages.
In the second sphere, the Government
has established a Ministerial Committee concerning Arab citizens, headed by
Minister Matan Vilnai. During its meeting on January 31, 2000, the Committee
gave its approval to the organizational structure which will handle matters
relating to Arabs in Israel:
A Ministerial Committee
A Subcommittee for Bedouin
affairs. It will be headed by Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Haim Oron.
A Subcommittee for Employment and
Economic Development in the Arab Sector, headed by Minister for Industry
and Trade, Mr. Ran Cohen.
A Director Generals' Committee
for Arab Sector Affairs, headed by the Director General of the Prime
Minister's Office, Mr. Yossi Kuchik.
Upon the establishment of the
Committee, Minister Vilnai stated that he "viewed the building of
relations of trust and understanding with the Arab sector and the aspiration
of reaching full equality as a strategic objective."
The Director Generals' Committee was
assigned the responsibility of devising a program of action for the
development and advancement of the Arab sector, and drawing up a cooperation
framework involving the various government ministries. This program will
include the raising of resources and promotion of investment, while applying
an affirmative action policy in the areas of housing, employment, industry,
transport, infrastructures, agriculture, and education in the non-Jewish
The Subcommittee for Bedouin Affairs
has been assigned the responsibility of dealing with various issues relating
to the Bedouin sector, with particular reference to a settlement of
territorial and compensation matters, the expansion of existing villages and
an examination of the possibility of establishing new villages, the
establishment of a center providing services for residents in the area and the
formulation of a policy statement and an organized work program.
In addition, the Ministerial
Committee dealing with Arab citizens has been operating in the following
Local Authority Budgets - At the end of December 1999, Government representatives reached an
agreement with the heads of the Arab local authorities, and brought to an
end the protracted strike which had been a result of budgetary shortages.
The Government committed itself to the establishment of a four-year
affirmative action plan which would reduce the inequality affecting the
Arab sector. Short-term plans were approved for resolving problems related
to the regular budgets, the development budgets for the Arab Authorities
and recovery programs for the covering of deficits.
Illegal Construction - The Chairman of the Ministerial Committee, Matan Vilnai, declared that
"the application of Israel's policy concerning illegal construction
in the Arab sector has failed, and other solutions must be found".
The Committee has requested that the Ministry of the Interior concentrate
all decisions of previous governments concerning the application of the
policy regarding illegal construction, and that it examines the monitoring
methods used by the Ministry of the Interior, in order to revise the
policy of the demolition of homes.
Outline Plan - The Ministerial Committee decided that the updating of the outline plan
for Arab villages will be completed within the next four years.
Integration and Representation - The Ministerial Committee appointed the Head of the Qfar Manda Local
Council and the Chairman of the Committee of the Heads of the Local Arab
Councils, Mr. Mahmad Zidan, as the representative of the Arab population
on the Committee. In addition, the Head of the Yafia Local Council, Mr.
Shuki Khatib, was appointed as a representative of the Arab population to
the Director Generals' Committee.
The Ministerial Committee has
assigned the Civil Service Commission to draw up a five-year program, in
coordination with the Ministry of Finance and other institutions dealing
with the issue, with the aim of increasing the proportion of employees
from the non-Jewish sector in the Civil Service to 10 per cent (as opposed
to 5 per cent today).
The Committee also requested that
the Government Organizations Authority present recommendations to the
directors of the government organizations regarding the integration of
workers from the Arab and Druze sector in their organizations, in order to
increase significantly the number of employees from this sector, as a
proportion of all the employees in government organizations. The Authority
will submit a report on the matter to the Ministerial Committee, every six
At the same time, the Minister of
Justice, Dr. Yossi Beilin,
announced that his Ministry is drafting a government bill regarding the
appointment of Arabs as directors of public companies.
Sites Holy to Islam and
Christianity - The Ministerial Committee
has assigned the Israel Lands Authority and the Ministry of Religious
Affairs to take steps to preserve and safeguard Islamic and Christian
sites that have been neglected (mosques, churches, graves and sacred
tombs) and to submit a program of action in this regard.