The massacre of October 7 led Israel into a difficult and prolonged war that requires budgetary realignment. As part of this process, the Finance Ministry is proposing extensive cuts, including cuts to the budgets in governmental programs for Arab society. In this framework, the proposed cuts to budgets earmarked for Arab society are not proportionate and constitute grave discrimination. While most of the cuts are at 5%, the cut to the earmarked budgets for Arab citizens is 15% – three times the general cuts. This is despite decades of neglect and underdevelopment that brought Arab society to a difficult economic and social condition, with high levels of poverty and crime, a lack of personal security, inadequate infrastructures and services, and estrangement from the state.

This reality of poverty and underdevelopment is one of the main factors behind the acute crisis of violence and crime facing Arab society. In 2023, 244 Arab citizens and residents lost their lives due to circumstances of crime and violence. This is an unprecedented emergency that demands an immediate response, since it directly violates the basic right the state is supposed to protect: the right to life and security. Given this reality, it is vital to refrain from damaging the Government Decision on Curbing Crime and Violence in Arab Society (Government Decision 549).

As for the budgets earmarked for reducing socioeconomic gaps in Arab society (Government Decision 550), the proposed cut effectively deepens discrimination and will worsen the condition of Arab citizens and, as a result, the condition of the Israeli economy and society as a whole. This adds insult to injury.

In order to moderate their harsh impact, the cuts to Government Decision 550 should be reduced, and no cuts at all should be made to Government Decision 549. This will allow the trend for integration to continue and will benefit the Israeli economy as a whole. According to a study published in December 2019 by the Aaron Institute for Economic Policy at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, “growth in the Israeli economy is expected to slow over the coming years to the extent that there will be no significant increase in productivity in the economy as a whole, and a rise in employment and productivity among weak populations, such as Arab society in particular.” In other words, these budgets constitute an investment in the Israeli economy, which can be expected to benefit from this expenditure.

It should be noted that for approximately a decade, the Israeli government – headed by Benjamin Netanyahu – has devoted significant resources to the advancement of Arab society, recognizing the importance of this issue for the Israeli economy. For example, the past decade has seen significant progress in the integration of Arab society in academia and, as a result, in employment. Figures from the Council for Higher Education show that the number of Arab students in higher education in 2022 was 60,594, compared to 25,951 in 2010 – in other words, the number of Arab students has doubled. This is a dazzling success that proves that government investment in Arab society is worthwhile. Similarly, figures published recently show that following the investment in the previous five-year plan for Arab society (Government Decision 922), 38 Arab local authorities improved their socioeconomic ranking.

Employment rates among men and women in Arab society are also rising gradually. In 2010, the employment rate for Arab women was 21%, compared to 43.4% at the end of 2022. However, this employment rate is still below levels in general Israeli society. In addition, around half of Arab children live in poverty, and 39% of all citizens in Arab society live below the poverty line. The proportion of idle young adults (18–25) in Arab society is 25% for men and 34% for women. As the State Comptroller noted, this has numerous ramifications: “Idleness also influences crime rates among the young population, particularly among men. In addition, idleness impairs the sense of capacity and interpersonal skills, leads to the atrophying of social contacts and to depression, imposes a financial burden on the family, and causes pressure on welfare and community services, a reduced sense of social belonging, and increased poverty and social gaps. Idleness at a young age is associated with idleness at older ages. Accordingly, integrating young adults in Arab society, in the job market, in quality positions, can assist in narrowing socioeconomic gaps and improve productivity in the Israeli economy as a whole.” Thus, the massive cuts to budgets for socioeconomic development are liable not only to halt the positive trend but to eliminate the impact of these investments by reversing the trend, leading to a worsening situation.

We emphasize that Arab citizens will suffer most due to these cuts, both because their initial situation is so low and because they will suffer the most significant cuts.

The disproportionate cut to budgets for Arab society will harm Arab society directly and immediately. Ultimately, and since any society is only as strong as its weakest link, they will harm us all.

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