A large gap separates Israeli Arabs from their Jewish counterparts, and the programs meant to reduce that gap are not succeeding, according to a report released by Sikkuy, an Israeli non-profit organization.
The organization, jointly managed and governed by Jewish and Arab Israelis, is dedicated to the advancement of civic equality in Israel, focusing primarily on the advancement of the Arab citizens of Israel. Their 2001 report, "On Equality and Integration of Arab Citizens in Israel," outlines the status of Arab citizens to date, critiques the welfare programs that are currently in place, and suggests numerous modifications to help Arabs achieve full equality.
"During the last decade, awareness has grown in Israel that there is institutional discrimination against Arab citizens. No one can question this fact..." according to co-directors Shalom Dichter and Dr. A'sad Ghanem. "Yet unfortunately, during the past year, no serious momentum for change had become evident in the relations between the state and the Arab citizens."
Sikkuy attempts to prove this contention by analyzing three programs established by the Barak administration to improve the lot of Israeli Arabs in the areas of municipal facilities, employment and education. Last year, the Israeli Government pledged NIS 4 billion (about one billion U.S. dollars) to improve roads, housing, sewage systems, and medical clinics in Arab cities. All of these are inferior to facilities in comparable Jewish towns: "The infrastructures in Israel are well developed, but Arab localities are often like isolated islands within the national and regional systems. In general, the various systems extend only as far as the entrance to Arab towns, and then continue on to neighboring Jewish towns where individual Jewish households are hooked up, in contrast to the Arab households which are not."
Dichter said the budget for improving Arab infrastructure is insufficient, and comparatively less than the government has given to Jewish towns that are less in need of improvement. Dichter postulates that the policy of giving to Arab towns is part of an "incremental approach," in which the government feels that any amount they give to the Arabs is better than nothing; thus, they feel no pressure to give equal amounts to Arabs as they do to Jews.
The same gap that exists with regard to municipal services is also present in the workplace, according to Ali Haider. Arabs, who make up more than 18% of the total of Israeli citizens, comprise less than six percent of the civil service; the percentage of Arabs in high-level, policy-making positions is even smaller. This despite a law signed by the Barak administration calling for more government jobs for Arab citizens.
In education, too, existing policy is insufficient. An article by Wadi'a Awauda asserts that a five-year plan implemented this year by the Ministry of Education does not dedicate enough finances or teacher training to overcome the large gap between Arab and Israeli schools. Awauda estimates that NIS 840 million is needed to make Arab schools equal; the plan allocates only NIS 250 million over five years. While the program does seem to be giving a boost to Arab schools in the short-run, the article predicts that its long-run effect will be minimal.
To solve all three of these issues, Sikkuy argues that it is necessary to start by accepting one important premise: that Arab and Jewish citizens must be exactly equal. The incremental approach to policy making must be replaced by a more far-reaching one – once Jews accept that Arabs must have the same opportunities and facilities that they have, they will be willing to give equal treatment and finances to both segments of the population.
Source: Report on Equality and Integration of the Arab Citizens in Israel, Israel: Sikkuy, (June 2001).