Israel Update - Spring 2016 TwitterFacebook
Government Knesset & Legislation
Civil Society Public Discourse

Government Updates

Historic Development Plan for Arab Society

Excelling Municipalities LaunchOn December 30, 2015, the Government of Israel approved a groundbreaking, five-year Economic Development Plan for the Arab Sector aimed at tackling major gaps between Jews and Arabs in Israeli society. This comprehensive and multi-faceted plan is unprecedented not only in scale—it calls for allocations of NIS 10-15 Billion—but also because it ensures that Arab citizens will be budgeted in accordance to their 20% share in society, and often with preferential resource allocation. The plan targets education, transportation, housing, employment, industry, security, national service, water & sewage and municipal leadership and was officially launched in early March.

Task Force Briefing Paper
Historic Economic Development Plan for Arab Sector: Overview and Key Allocation Areas

Ministry of Finance PPT Presentation
Economic development and integration plan for the Arab sector

Audio Recording: Task Force Conference Call on Economic Development Plan
Amir Levy, Director of Budgets Department, Ministry of Finance

Law Enforcement in Arab Localities

police emblemA multi-billion shekel strategic plan for law enforcement in Arab localities was approved by the cabinet on April 9th. The plan includes creation of a new executive administration for the Arab community to be headed by the highest ranking Arab officer and an enhanced police presence and actions in Arab localities. It was presented by the Chief of Police to the Ministry of Finance after a devastating shooting in Tel Aviv by an Arab citizen reignited the issue of law enforcement in Arab localities. A day after the attack PM Netanyahu spoke at the scene lambasted "lawless enclaves" in Arab society. Counter-arguments were made that the lack of law and order in Arab localities is a result of government neglect as requests for such services are consistently made from within Israel's Arab society and by Arab leadership.

How police can earn the trust of Arab society in Israel +972 Mag – Amnon Be’eri Sulitzeanu - 2.18.16

More Must Be Done to Combat Crime in the Israeli Arab Street Haaretz - Odeh Bisharat - 2.1.16.

More police won't solve Arab crime in Israel - +972 Magazine - Amjad Iraqi - 1.3.16

Arab Woman Lawyer Appointed Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner

KabhaIn January 2016, the government appointed Adv. Mariam Kabaha to replace Adv. Tziona Koenig-Yair as Israel's national Equal Employment Opportunity Commissioner. Kabaha is the second person to hold this position and is now the highest-ranking Arab woman in civil service. She previously served as Commissioner to the Northern Region and will now be responsible to address discrimination in the labor market for numerous sectors throughout Israeli society.

Conference of Presidents Welcomes Appointment of Mariam Kabha As Israel's EEOC National Commissioner - Task Force - Staff -1.28.16.

Cabinet appoints highest ranking Arab female in civil service - Times of Israel - Lee Gancman – 1.25.16.

Arrabe Awarded City Status

arabbe On January 14th Minister of Interior Aryeh Deri (Shas) elevated the status of Arrabe, an Arab town in the North of Israel, from local authority to city. Arrabe's 25,000 residents, who have long sought this change, hope the new status will enable urban development in terms of industry, employment and planning. Minister Deri stated this decision "is very important for Arab society in Israel and its integration into the Israeli society. The decision was taken after, over the past few years, the locality has operated…under proper management standards, with a balanced budget, the absence of significant faults in the Ministry's oversight reports and a high collection rate of local taxes."


Ministry of Defense Tax Redistribution to Benefit Arab Municipalities

defenceAccording to an agreement with the Ministry of Finance in late 2015, the Ministry of Defense will no longer pay municipal tax directly to local authorities where its facilities are located. Instead, payments (a total of approximately $130 million per year) will go to a central fund to be distributed among municipalities—with preferential allocation for poorer localities. One of the fund's goals is to close gaps in the distribution of the government's municipal tax payments. Currently, Arab towns receive approximately 2% of these payments though they are home to roughly 15% of Israel's population.

An Unexpected Winner in Israel's Defense Budget: Poorer Communities – Haaretz - Meirav Arlosoroff – 11.25.15

Knesset and Legislation

MK Suspension Bill

KnessetOn March 28th, the controversial "Suspension Bill," whereby a majority of 90 MKs would be able to suspend colleagues who support terrorism or negate the existence of Israel, passed a first reading in the Knesset by 59:53. The bill was floated by PM Netanyahu and his cabinet after three Arab MKs (from the Balad party—part of the Joint Arab List) visited families of terrorists that were killed while attacking Israelis. Currently, the Knesset Ethics Committee can suspend MKs from parliamentary activities (not from voting) for a limited time, and did suspend the three Balad MKs for 2-4 months. The new bill would expand the time and possible reasons for suspension and replace the suspended MK with the next person on the party's list for the duration. Supporters say it is a necessary measure to prevent MKs from using their democratic liberties to undermine the state. Critics say it is a slippery slope that erodes the country's democratic principles. A few on the far-right say the bill does not go far enough.

Silencing Arab members of the Knesset would be a new low for Israeli democracy - The Guardian - Yousef Jabareen - 4.1.16.

Israel Must Not Allow Arab Politicians To Use The Country’s Freedoms Against Itself - Newsweek - Michael Oren - 2.14.16.

"Loyalty Criteria" for Government Arts Funding

RegevIn late January, Minister of Culture Miri Regev announced plans for a bill that would condition state funding for the arts on what have been dubbed "loyalty criteria." Regev's bill would allow the Ministry to deny funding to artistic projects that negate Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state, incite violence, racism and terrorism, support an armed struggle against Israel, desecrate the flag or any other state symbol, or mark Israel's inception as a day of mourning. Existing criteria for government funding excludes any reference to content and is in the hands of professional committees. Politicians, artists and activists claim the bill "politicizes culture," antagonizes cultural institutions and curtails artistic freedom. Attorney General Mendelblit partially backed the suggested bill in February, saying it mirrors an existing arrangement in the Budget Foundations Law, but denied imposition of fines for refusing to perform in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank and denied allowing investigation of cultural institutions as a precondition of funding.

'What's happening is fascism': artists respond to Israel's 'war on culture' - The Guardian - Michael Griffiths - 3.1.16

AG backs controversial 'cultural loyalty' bill – Israel Hayom - Edna Adato, Maya Cohen, Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff – 2.25.16

NGO Transparency Law

NGO LawA bill requiring NGOs to self-identify as foreign-funded if they receive a majority of funding from non-Israeli political entities (such as governments and international development agencies) passed a first reading in the Knesset on February 9th by a 50:43 majority. This law, known both as the Transparency Law and NGO Law, would require such NGOs to reference themselves as foreign-funded in any public statement, publication, and in correspondence with official institutions. Minister of Justice, Ayelet Shaked favors adding a clause that would also require NGO representatives to wear a tag when in the Knesset. The majority of NGOs that would be affected are human rights, Arab and left-wing organizations.

Israel's New NGO Bill Will Reveal Hidden Agendas - Newsweek - Emmanuel Navon - 1.10.16

Reform Jews join ADL, AJC in opposing Israel’s NGO 'transparency' bill – Jerusalem Post – JTA – 1.15.16

New Tax Benefits for 37 Arab Communities

tax-benefitNew criteria approved by the Knesset Finance Committee in late 2015 mean 37 more Arab, Druze and Bedouin communities (48 total) are now eligible for new income tax benefits. Under the new criteria, benefits will be given to residents of communities that are close to Israel's borders, far from major cities, and are of lower socio-economic status. The list includes a total of 407 communities and will cost the state an estimated 1.35 billion shekels. The previous list included 182 towns of which only 11 were Arab and 2 were mixed Jewish-Arab.

Arab, Druze and Bedouin Towns Slated for Tax Benefits – Haaretz - Moti Bassok – 11.24.15

Civil Society Updates


New Initiatives Promoting Arab women

Mahapach-Taghir launched "Second Opportunity Program" in the Arab village of Tamra to empower Jewish Mizrahi women and Arab women in Israel's periphery through higher education, employment, and capacities to advocate for social change. The Arab Jewish Community Center in Jaffa launched a Women's Club for women over 50. The Abraham Fund Initiatives held a conference on Gender, Education and Public Leadership marking the graduation its 9th cohort from its Arab Women's Leadership Course.


New Hi Tech integration Projects

Efforts to integrate Arab citizens into the hi-tech industry and close digital gaps are bearing fruit in Israel, with Arab representation increasing from 0.3% to 3% since 2006. Yet, barriers remain significant. Several new hi-tech integration projects were launched in early 2016 by Unistream, the Athena Fund, PresenTense, and Appleseeds in collaboration with both government and the private sector to address some of these barriers.



High Tech Development in Kafr Qasim and the southern Triangle

A multiphase effort to advance the Kafr Qasim region was launched with the opening of TRI/O Tech, a hi-tech center and accelerator. A joint initiative of the municipality, MIT's Enterprise Forum, Tsofen and funded by MEPI, this NIS 4.5M center is part of a wider NIS 6M project that will include a training center for young Arab professionals. Tsofen and INJAZ are working with the municipality and the Ministry for Social Equality to make the region more attractive to hi-tech, both to integrate Arab citizens into the industry and expand the industry into Arab society. The project is also supported by private philanthropy, in large part by the Guilford & Diane Glazer Foundation.



Increasing Arab Inclusion in Israel's Mainstream Media - Sikkuy and TAFI

In March 2016, a new Fair Representation Index by Sikkuy, the Beit Berl Foundation and The Seventh Eye Magazine shows that only 2-3% of interviewees in mainstream Israeli media are Arab. A recent Sikkuy study found that media inclusion of Arab citizens—especially on subjects other than security and crime—positively impacts Jewish perceptions of Arab citizens as partners in Israeli society. Last December, the Abraham Fund Initiatives launched an initiative to increase media presence and awareness of Arab citizens, beginning with three Arabic language and culture courses 110+ Hebrew speaking media professionals.


Arabic Language conference At Tel Aviv University

Dirasat, The Arab Center for Law and Policy, Van Leer Institute and Sikkuy organized “Ana Min Al-Yahud: On Jewishness, Mizrahi Identity and Arabic in Israel, the last in a series of major academic conferences held in Arabic at a number of Israel's universities. This conference dealt with the historical, reciprocal and cultural connections between Arabic and the Jewish people, and between Arabic language and Judaism – with a special focus on the loss of Arabic among Mizrachi Jews.


Citizens Accord Forum: A Multi-Cultural, Multi-Tribal Happening

On January 14th, the Citizens Accord Forum held a major event at the Arab-Jewish Community Center in Jaffa bringing together intellectuals, artists, researchers and thinkers from music, theater, science, literature, poetry and numerous other fields. In a 'TED-talk' model the Jewish and Arab, religious and secular presenters discussed their work and lives. The conference aimed to give a shared platform to intellectuals from all parts of Israeli society to enhance mutual acquaintance, understanding and shared society.

Hand in Hand expansion approved in Haifa and independence sought in Jaffa

After four years of operating an informal bilingual daycare in Haifa, Hand in Hand received the Mayor's support to expand into a public elementary school. The daycare, which currently has 84 children ages 1-5, will open a 1st grade in September 2016 and grow annually as its students mature. In Jaffa, Tel Aviv municipality wants Hand in Hand's existing bilingual school to work from within a Hebrew-language public school beginning next year. Families are campaigning for the municipality to allow proper conditions for independent bilingual education.


New children's book revives legacy of Jewish-Muslim coexistence

"Sweet tea with Mint and Other Stories" is an anthology of original Jewish, Christian and Muslim holiday stories written by Jewish and Arab writers. The stories demonstrate shared history among Jews and Arabs and facilitate discussions on issues of gender and culture. A joint initiative of the Education Department at Ben Gurion University and the Hagar Association, the book has been approved by the Ministry of Education for public schools and is being integrated with special teacher training focused on use in Arab, Jewish and mixed classrooms.



AJEEC-NISPED's Volunteers Tent Recognized by the Ministry of Education's Society and Youth Administration

AJEEC-NISPED's Volunteer Tent, established in 2002, was recognized in December 2015 by the Ministry of Education as an official youth organization. The Tent engages more than 2,000 young Bedouin volunteers, participating in projects in their own communities as well as in joint Arab-Jewish initiatives in the Negev. Following this recognition, the Tent is now the first official Bedouin youth organization.


Public Discourse

Maternity Ward Segregation

A media investigation in early April revealed that at least a few major Israeli hospital maternity wards accommodate Jewish women who request not to share a room with an Arab woman. Amid vocal condemnations of the practice, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home Party, Deputy Speaker of the Knesset) added volatility by tweeting that his wife "would not want Arab celebrations” around her maternity bed and that she would not want to be next to an Arab newborn who might seek to murder her son in 20 years. Political leaders left and right and numerous civil society organizations reacted strongly both to Smotrich and to the revelation of this segregation. Jewish Home founder Minister Naftali Bennett spoke out against Smotrich’s statements. MK Tibi (Joint List) urged the Minister of Health to ensure this practice ceases. MK Nachman Shai (Zionist Union) called on State Comptroller Yosef Shapira to investigate. Civil society organizations issued statements and urged the Minister of Health to clarify that this practice is illegal. In addition, a petition was circulated by Zazim, on Facebook, Jewish and Arab mothers posted photos together with their new babies, and Tag Meir Jewish and Arab activists handed out flowers in maternity wards.

Don't tarnish Israel's image - Israel Hayom - Dan Margalit – 4.6.16.

First Person: Sharing a hospital room – with all sorts - Jerusalem Post - Ben Hartman - 4.8.16.

Pew Research Center Survey

A Pew Research Center survey released in March 2016 (conducted in late 2014 to mid 2015, after Operation Protective Edge and before the current wave of attacks) raised serious concerns about Israeli society with findings that 48% of Israeli Jews said they support expulsion of Arabs. In parallel, the poll's validity was disputed due to the questionable phrasing and methodology. A number of polls released around the same time (including by STATNET and INSS) also reflected a growing sense of alienation and mistrust between Jews and Arabs in Israel in recent months, but also showed the desire of most Arab citizens to integrate and the belief among many Jewish citizens that such integration is an Israeli interest.

New Cycle of Distrust Between Israeli Arabs and Jews - Daniel Gordis - 3.13.16.

Do Israeli Jews really want to expel Arabs? The (huge) holes in the Pew survey – TheJC.com - Nathan Jeffay – 3.10.16.

Winds of change in the Arab sector - Israel Hayom - Prof. Amnon Rubinstein - 1.15.16.

Controversial New Civics Textbook

A revised draft of a Ministry of Education (MOE) civics textbook, "Being Citizens in Israel," raised heated controversy upon preliminary release. Critics claim the textbook favors Israel's Jewish character over its democratic values, undermines the rights of the Arab minority, and contains a number of misleading statements and factual errors about Arab citizens. The Knesset Education Committee, Arab MKs, academics, educators and students are among those voicing concerns. Arab MKs and educators also objected to the lack of Arab participation in the revision process. Minister of Education, Naftali Bennett and MOE staff rejected the criticism, saying the revision "is aligned with modifications that have been done to the study program (since 2011)." Civics studies are among the few academic subjects that share identical academic materials across educational streams (secular, religious, and Arab).

Israeli Academics Threaten Suit Over Controversial Civics Textbook - Haaretz - Yarden Skop - 3.18.16

Amid textbook row, Bennett insists new edition isn’t partisan - The Times of Israel - staff - 2.21.16

Arabic in the Public Sphere

Bus signsArabic as a matter of equal access in Israel's public sphere arose on several occasions over the last several months. In February, it was found that Tel Aviv University had directed its call center operators to stop responding in Arabic even when callers were Arab. A social media post about this led to public protest which, in turn, led to the University retracting the ban. In early March, there were protests in Haifa because new electronic bus stop signs are only in Hebrew for the time-being. Meanwhile, the Afifi Group, one of the largest operators of bus lines in the north, had just announced that it will add Arabic alongside all Hebrew information at bus stops, websites, electronic message boards, and in public address systems. Finally, Haifa International Children's Theater Festival will be accessible in Hebrew and Arabic for the first time and will include two performances in Arabic in the program. This follows years of negotiations by civil society organizations and, according to Sikkuy, turns "the festival into a truly shared space for all children – Jewish and Arab.”

Tel Aviv University Retracts Ban on Arabic in Call Center Following Haaretz Report - Haaretz - Yarden Skop - 2.17.16.

For Electronic Bus Stop Signs, Arab Speakers Must Wait Till August - Haaretz - Ilan Lior - 3.11.16.

Not just cinema, but also theatre – a new first for Arab children in Israel - UK Task Force - 3.2.16.

Recent reports and articles by Israeli colleagues


Overview of Anti-Democratic Legislation in the 20th Knesset - ACRI - 3.2016.

Early Childhood in Bedouin Society in Israel - Mapping Needs and Services - JDC Israel - Dr. Yuval Karplus - 2.1.16.

Community under Attack: The Situation of the Human Rights of the Bedouin Community in the Negev-Nagab 2015 - Negev Coexistence Forum for Civil Equality - Michal Rotem - 12.15.15.

Israel: A Social Report 2015 - Adva Center - Dr. Shlomo Swirski, Etty Konor-Attias, Rotem Zelingher - 12.1.16.

From Higher Education to Employment: Evaluation of the Excel HT High Tech training Program for Arab Students - JDC-Brookdale - Ayala Hendin - 12.1.15. (Hebrew)

Bayan: The Arabs in Israel - The Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, Moshe Dayan Center, Tel Aviv University - Itamar Radai and Arik Rudnitzky - 12.1.15


Land Day: Yesterday, today, and tomorrow - Times of Israel - Ron Gerlitz - 4.8.16. (Sikkuy)

Baby steps towards mutual understanding - Times of Israel - Tehila Friedman-Nachalon - 4.7.16. (Shaharit)

Dear Arab men, leave us women out of your holy wars - +972 Magazine - Samah Salaime – 3.1.16. (Arab Women in the Center)

Gov't tenders should encourage cos to hire Arabs - Globes - Roi Grufi – 2.25.16. (Sikkuy)

What about us 'beasts' living inside the Villa in the Jungle? +972 Magazine - Samah Salaime -– 2.21.16. (Arab Women in the Center)

How police can earn the trust of Arab society in Israel - +972 Magazine - Amnon Be'eri Sulitzeanu –– 2.18.16. (The Abraham Fund Initiatives) 

Economic equality is an unconditional right - +972 Magazine - Rawak Natour and Abed Kanaaneh - 2.4.16. (Sikkuy)

'This shows it is possible to transform Israel into a just society': Ron Gerlitz on the Arab Economic Development Plan - Fathom Journal - Ron Gerlitz - 2.2.16. (Sikkuy)

Another Step Towards Stifling Dissent in Israel Haaretz - Don Futterman – 12.19.15. (Moriah Fund)

Arab Minority in Israel: Denouncing the idea of a Jewish State? - Institute for the Study of Anti-Semitism and Policy - Arik Rudnitzky - 12.16.15.

The murder of women in Arab society – a national emergency - Jerusalem Post - Rawak Natour - 12.14.15. (Sikkuy)

Arabs in Israeli hi-tech: Fact and fiction - Jerusalem Post - Paz Hirschmann, Sami Saadi – 12.1.15. (Tsofen)

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