Groups advocating for Arab-Israeli rights have petitioned the High Court of Justice to reform the way social services within Israel's
local authorities are budgeted, claiming that the current arrangement discriminates against Arab communities.
Under the current system, the local authorities are tasked with financing 25% of social services provided within their jurisdiction, while the remaining 75% are provided by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Social Services. The ministry provides additional financing to those authorities that manage to pay their quarter of the budget.
The Israel Religious Action Center and the Association of Social Service Heads for Arab Communities claim that the system favors Jewish towns over Arab ones because it fails to take into account each locality's socio-economic situation. It therefore undermines the Arab communities' ability to provide sufficient social services to their residents, they say.
"The Arab authorities are on the bottom of the socio-economic scale and cannot finance 25% of the social services budget," said Emile Sema'an, Chairman of the Association of Social Service Heads.
Sema'an warned that a financial crisis is imminent within the Arab-Israeli authorities unless the system is changed.
"The number of social services recipients in the Arab sector has doubled over the past three years, but the situation has yet to be addressed," he said.
Attorney Ruth Carmi of the Religious Action Center told Ynet that the existing system undermines the poor towns' ability to hire social workers, and thus not only perpetuates the gaps between financially strong and weak towns, but also widens them.
Aviel Magnezi contributed to the report