In December 2015, the Government of Israel adopted Decision No. 922, “Economic Development Plan for Arab society in Israel for the years 2016-2020”. This decision represents the actualization, albeit only partial for now, of one of Sikkuy’s oft-repeated and most longstanding policy recommendations. For years, we reiterated that the path to eliminating discrimination and achieving parity in material resources between Jewish and Arab citizens is via adjustments to the apparatus that determines the national budget.
Decision 922 actualizes this principle in a series of fields related to increasing employment. The decision fixed a proportional share of the state budget for the Arab population, consonant with its size relative to the population as a whole, and in certain instances even beyond that. Thus, for example, the budget for informal education allocated to Arab localities would be based on their proportion in the general population, 25% of the budget for building day care centers would be allocated to Arab local authorities, 40% of the budget for additions to public transportation services likewise, etc. The Ministry of Finance estimates that the total budget allocated under this government decision over the 5 years of its implementation is 10 billion NIS.
Reaching full equality between Jews and Arabs in Israel will demand further major changes in the state budget, and Sikkuy will continue to demand these adjustments.At the same time, we believe that if Government Decision 922 is optimally implemented, it will result in a significant decrease in the disparities between Jews and Arabs and contribute dramatically to economic development in Arab towns. Thus, we work consistently and intensively, in partnership with mayors, with the the National Committee of Arab Mayors (NCAM), and with Knesset members from the Joint List to promote the broadest possible and best implementation of the government decision.
The challenges in implementing 922 are manifold. Although the decision mandates equalizing budget allocations, government ministries have still not dealt with the thicket of serious barriers preventing successful acquisition and utilization by the local authorities of these allocations. Likewise, government ministries have not yet allocated adequate resources to buttressing the human resources at the Arab local councils that will enable them to move forward vigorously to take full advantage of the allocations this decision makes possible.
To address these challenges, we offer many years of accumulated professional and systematic know-how derived from our extensive research and mapping of the barriers in the government ministries and in Arab local authorities. We work with government officials in charge of areas in which we have accumulated years of expertise: planning and housing, public transportation services, transportation infrastructure development, building of day care centers and promoting employment. We share with them a series of policy recommendations and practicable solutions for improving the allocation of resources to Arab local authorities, and we provide the local authorities with the tools required to exploit the resources provided under the government decision.
At the same time, together with the Injaz Center for Professional Arab Local Governance and the Arab Center for Alternative Planning, we are providing intensive individual assistance to 14 Arab local authorities. We work with the professional staffs at the local authorities to assist them in taking optimum and maximum advantage of the resources being made available through 922.
We are pleased that, following strenuous efforts by mayors, by the National Committee of Arab Mayors, by members of Knesset and by civil society organizations, most of the designated budgets have been allocated thus far under 922. The information on implementation of the government decision is transparent and accessible to the public on a government web site, and the government has even begun allocating additional resources intended to strengthen the human resources at the Arab local councils. There remains a long way to go to achieve full implementation; we will continue to push hard for full implementation of the decision and for the remediation of additional budget allocation mechanisms in the future.