The government unanimously approved on Wednesday a five-year plan to invest NIS 15 billion in the development of Arab municipalities in the fields of education, transportation, employment and housing.
Approval had been delayed when several Likud ministers, including Culture Minister Miri Regev and Science Minister Ofir Akunis, raised objections to the plan because it does not include benefits to municipalities with mixed Jewish and Arab populations.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel formulated the plan seeking to change governmental allocation mechanisms in an effort to narrow gaps and aid in the quick economical development of Arab society.
NIS 1.2 billion will be allocated to promoting construction in Arab municipalities, while NIS 1.4 billion will be allocated to bolstering local authorities in an effort to develop infrastructure.
Despite objections from Likud, cities with mixed populations such as Ramle, Lod, and Acre will not benefit from the initiative.
Approval of the plan heralds a big change in transportation, including increasing subsidies for public transportation in Arab municipalities, completing the infrastructure for public transportation and making the information accessible to the Arab public by translating it to Arabic.
To that end, 40 percent of the State of Israel's public transportation budget will be used in the Arab sector, as well as 40 percent of the budget allocated to transportation infrastructure in municipalities.
The plan includes extensive and in-depth investment in education in the Arab sector, focusing on training educators, educational achievements, and informal education - in both basic and higher education.
In the field of employment and economic development, 32.5 percent will be allocated in 2016 to the development of industrial areas in Arab municipalities. In addition, 17.5 percent of the Small and Medium Businesses Agency's budget will be allocated to businesses in the Arab sector.
Many residents of Arab towns reacted skeptically to the plan's approval. About a year and a half ago, the government approved allocating NIS 150 million for the development of the city of Taybeh, but the money has yet to be received.