Amid warnings of a third intifada outbreak, the Ministry for Minority Affairs on Wednesday announced a government plan to invest NIS 800 million (about $215 million) in Israel's minority population, as part of a perennial project.
The plan, signed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman, will invest the funds in 10 selected towns during the next five years.
The investment will focus on four main realms: Occupational development, infrastructure, upgrading the transportation network and preparing plots of land for construction.
Minister Braverman said the plan "proved that Israel's government sees the importance of giving equal civil rights to Israeli Arabs."
The plan was developed over the course of nine months and was done in accordance with Ayman Sayaf, administrator of the minority sector's authority of financial development and a number of ministries, including the Ministry for Minority Affairs, the Treasury Ministry, the Ministry of Industry, trade & Labor.
The towns that were selected to take part in the project are Nazareth, Shfaram, Sakhnin, Umm al-Fahm, Qalansuwa, Maghar, Tamra, Tira, Kfar Kassem and Rahat.
Strengthen ties between community, policeAs part of the plan, some NIS 220 million ($60 million) will be invested in occupational development, which will also include investments in local economic infrastructures and upgrading transportation networks in and outside of the towns.
NIS 100 million ($27 million) will go toward preparing public land plots for construction and an additional NIS 316 million ($85 million) will be invested into private plots.
Another NIS 150 million ($40 million) will be used to promote anti violence programs in the selected towns.
"The aim is to improve the service we give to citizens, and strengthen ties between the community, the police and law enforcement," said a source in Braverman's office.
The ten towns were selected based on their population size, the stability of local government and residents' socio-economic situation.
Over 300,000 citizens live in these towns, constituting approximately 25% of Israel's minority population.
Potential not realizedThe program initiators aim at increasing the income per capita, upgrading the economic infrastructures and creating decent conditions for economic development. They also aim at increasing the human capital and personal security while encouraging awareness to issues of violence within the Arab public.
The plan will be presented to the cabinet on Sunday. The prime minister, who already signed the plan, said that "the Arab population's potential is not realized, and we are acting to increase equality of opportunity. This plan can change the face of the State of Israel and expresses the government's commitment to growth and equality."
Braverman added that "the plan signals a dramatic change in the government's policy toward its Arab citizens." According to Braverman, NIS 800 million of the invested funds will generate some NIS 2 billion in profits for Israel's economy.
"The plan will supply solutions to complex issues such as women's employment, the lack of public transportation and housing needs. Now, we must only wait for the cabinet's approval," he said.
Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz also lauded the plan and said that the Finance Ministry will act to strengthen minority populations in Israel. "this is one of the most important plans; it promotes employment, strengthens infrastructures and creates future economic activity," Steinitz said.