The October 7 massacre led Israel into a difficult and long war that requires adjustments to the national budget. As part of this process, the Finance Ministry is proposing extensive cuts, including to budgets in government programs for Arab society, such as the Government Decision on Curbing Crime and Violence in Arab Society (Government Decision 549). These cuts can be expected to have a serious impact on the government fight against these problems.

In 2023, 244 Arab citizens and residents lost their lives in circumstances of crime and violence. Crime reached new extremes, including threats to local government leaders, local electoral candidates and multi homicide incidents. However, the rate of indictment for homicides remains extremely low (10.5%). This trend is continuing in 2024. This unprecedented emergency requires an immediate response since it directly violates the basic rights for life and security.

Government Decision 549 includes a holistic response in many fields, including policing, education, welfare, and so forth. The decision reflects an understanding that crime and violence have underlying causes that cannot be addressed solely through the law enforcement system and also require broad and multi-layered action. The proposed cuts are disproportionate and reflect extreme discrimination against Arab society. While most budget cuts are 5%, the cut in budgets earmarked for Arab society is 15%, – three times the general cuts. This is particularly alarming given rampant crime in Arab society. Moreover, the state itself has recognized that Arab society has faced neglect and underdevelopment for decades, leading to a difficult economic and social reality, with high poverty and crime rates, a lack of personal security, inadequate infrastructures and services, and alienation from the state.

Due to the existing gaps and the disproportionate character of the proposed cuts, Arab citizens will be severely affected. Studies show that crime impairs economic growth and threatens to halt or even reverse the upward trends seen in various socioeconomic indexes in Arab society over the past decade. It is important to emphasize that Arab citizens pay an even greater price for crime than other citizens of Israel. A report published by the Bank of Israel in 2014 showed that the economic damage due to crime to the state was estimated at NIS 15.8 billion a year. Since the crime rate has risen sharply over the ten years since this figure was published, it is reasonable to assume that the economic damage is even greater now.

The budget cuts for combating crime send a clear message that Arab citizens do not have equal rights and the state is not committed to improving their personal security. Alongside the direct damage of this decision, the cuts and the message they convey will increase the lack of trust Arab citizens feel in the state and the law enforcement system. Instead of fighting rising crime in Arab society and joining forces with the vast majority of law-abiding Arab citizens, the state is leaving them to the mercy of the criminals. Therefore, it is vital to prevent budget cuts for combating crime in Arab society.

Submitted to the Knesset’s Finance Committee, February 2024.

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