The Mossawa Center hosted Knesset conference on the state budget and allocations to the Arab community

Date: 2015/11/11
Mossawa Center hosted a conference in the Knesset on the economic needs of the Arab community in regard to the proposed Israeli state budget for 2015-2016.

11/11/2015 Haifa.  The Mossawa Center in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and in partnership with MKs Dr. Ahmad Tibi and Dr. Basel Ghattas and the National Committee of the Heads of Arab Localities, hosted a conference in the Knesset on the economic needs of the Arab community in regard to the proposed Israeli state budget for 2015-2016. The conference was attended by Members of the Knesset, Minister of Social Equality MK Gila Gamliel, Chair of the finance committee MK Moshe Gafni, Director of budgets for the Ministry of Finance Amir Levy as well as Arab mayors and civil society organizations. Minister of Finance MK Moshe Kahlon was supposed to attend but did not show up for the conference. 

His absence was taken as a worrying sign for many of the MKs and Arab mayors present at the conference. Many of the participants felt that there is a state of crisis in regard to budget negotiations between the Arab community and the government. The leadership of the Arab community has been in negotiations with the Israeli government for an increase in budget allocations for economic development in the Arab community since the summer. Many took Minister Kahlon’s absence from the conference as a sign he was preparing to go back on previous agreements made with Arab leaders. 

At the conference Mossawa’s economist Eyad Snunu reviewed the needs of the Arab community from the state budget, stressing that one of the main demands is that the state should conduct a comprehensive survey of the needs of the Arab community, as was done for needs in culture. 

The state budget for 2015-2016 will be passed in the Knesset on November 19th. The total state budget for 2015 - 2016 will be more than 800 billion. The coalition for a fair budget is asking for 32 billion shekels over the next five years and 15.41 billion in 2015 and 2016. This amount is needed in order to close the large gaps that currently exist between the Arab and Jewish communities as a result of the discriminatory nature of budget allocations to the Arab community. 

When he addressed the participants Mr. Amir Levy, recognized the existence of these gaps explaining that the ministry is afraid to make a governmental decision to stop the economic and social discrimination and wants to postpone the implementation of the 5 year plan proposed by the coalition for a fair budget. 

The Mayor of Sachnin, in the name of  the Arab mayors present expressed his concern over the situation and expressed their readiness to strike if needed. Arab localities are in particular need of increased budget allocations from the state. Their residents are coming to them with problems, which have risen out of a lack of services and infrastructure such as bad roads, lack of public transportation, poor quality and lack of resources in schools and more. Arab localities have been consistently looked over by the state budget for commercial investments and other ventures, which would increase the income of the municipality. The Arab mayors association will meet this Thursday and decide if a strike is necessary in order for their demands to be taken seriously by the Israeli government and the Knesset.

The director of the Mossawa center, Jafar Farah added, "The conference ended with a feeling that there is still much work to be done between now and the passing of the budget on November 19th. Mossawa staff is continuing to work in the Knesset with Arab and Jewish MKs and with the Arab mayors to ensure the needs of the Arab community will be taken in to consideration when the budget for 2015-2016 is passed". At the end of the conference MK Basil Ghattas said, "We will make every effort to pressure the government and the Finance Committee for the allocation of a larger budget to the Arab community, and on the Arab local authorities to join to participate in the discussions of the Finance Committee on the general budget and to be ready to step up the struggle and protest in the absence of the government's response to the demands and lack of implementation of the five-year plan."

For more information contact the Mossawa Center at +972-48555901 or [email protected] 

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The Mossawa Center, the Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, aims to promote the economic, social, cultural and political rights of the Palestinian citizens in Israel, and the recognition of this community as a national indigenous minority, with their own national, cultural and historical distinctiveness. The Center develops programs to promote a democratic society, and acts against all forms of discrimination based on race, nationalism, religious affiliation, social status, gender, and disabilities.

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