"Despite the fact that Arabs comprise 20% of the general population of the State of Israel, only 4% of the total budget for development is allocated to this sector," Hadash chairman MK Mohammad Barakeh said on Monday at a Knesset session held under the banner of 'Wanted: A Fair Budget for Arab Society.'
Barakeh laid out a series of statistics proving that Israeli-Arabs do not receive their proportional share of national budgets compared to their size as a sector.
This is the ninth year that Barakeh, a member of the Knesset Finance Committee, has led this discussion on budgetary allocations for the Arab sector.
Jafer Farah, director of the Mossawa Advocacy Center for Arab Citizens in Israel, confirmed Barakeh's figures to Ynet. "Unfortunately, the Arab percentage of the 2008 budget is identical to the percentage from 1999. The 4% threshold has not been breached," Farah said.
The Mossawa Center prepared a special report for Barakeh, local authorities and the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee in which they detailed the discrimination they say is prevalent against Israeli Arabs in funding decisions.
Legislative debates on the budget for 2008 are scheduled to begin next week.
According to Barakeh, there is no mention of any percentage of the Social Welfare Ministry's being specifically allocated to the Arab sector, even though studies place some 54% of all Arab families under the poverty line.
"We are asking for the creation of a national program to eliminate poverty in Arab society. We are asking that out of a welfare budget that stands at $1.25 billion, $128 million be allotted to the Arab sector," Farah said.
The situation is similar with the Interior Ministry. Out of a budget of $794,000 earmarked for fiscal disparities grants, it is unclear how much is slated for the Arab sector. The same is true for the category of development.
"Fiscal disparities grants are given to local authorities according to the socio-economic levels which are determined by the Central Bureau of statistics. According to their most recent report, 95% of all Arab communities are in the lower clusters (of the socio-economic scale) and we are thus requesting $307,000 in fiscal disparities grants."
Even less money for development, roads, education
The Arab sector is apportioned a mere $11 million out of $188 million earmarked for infrastructure development; only $18 million out of $135 million designated for new construction.
The report requests $109 million for the Arab sector for the construction of new neighborhoods, renovation and maintenance of existing ones and financial aid for young couples.
Additionally, the numbers compiled in the report indicate that while more than 30% of people involved in lethal car accidents are Israeli-Arabs - the Ministry of Transportation has decided to slash the budget intended for the paving of new roads in Arab towns and villages.
The Education Ministry, the center said, has virtually no money expressly set aside for Arab students. The budget for the Arab sector is one-fifth of what is used to be despite the poor results achieved by Arab students in standardized Meitzav tests.
In all, Barakeh is requesting the Arab sector be allocated $987 million for causes ranging from worker incentives, narrowing social gaps, building new infrastructure systems and combating poverty in Arab society.
"Maybe following this discussion someone in the government will wake up and understand that this policy is detrimental to growth and impairing the ability of one-fifth of Israel's citizens to advance their society," Farah concluded.
"Unfortunately, I am not surprised (by the statistics)," MK Barakeh said. "In everything that is connected to the Arab public, the gaps are only getting bigger and bigger. It is important to me that before the debate on the budget, we reveal the dimensions of the inequality and discrimination to the public eye."