While Arabs make up 20.8% of the population, only 1.9% of employees of the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry are Arab, according to a report issued by three advocacy groups.

While there has been a “pattern of improvement” in the overall rate of Arab participation in civil service, many individual ministries have not improved since the cabinet decided in 2007 to boost Arab participation in the sector, according to the report by the Abraham Fund Initiatives, the Citizens Empowerment Center in Israel and Maas. The target of 10% representation was supposed to be reached by 2012, but in fact, was not reached till last year.

“A deep check of the distribution of jobs and posts which Arabs attained in various ministries shows that they work mainly in the Interior and Health ministries, while their representation ranges from low to zero in other ministries.

From 2007 through 2015, the number of Arabs working in the civil service grew by 88%, while the overall number of workers in the civil service grew by 19%, the report said.

But the Public Security ministry employs only 1.7% Arabs and the Social Equality ministry only 1.4%, the report said. The Finance Ministry employs 3%, the courts administration 3.5%, and the tax authority 4.4%.

According to Abraham Fund Initiatives co-director Thabet Abu Rass, the Ministry for the Galilee and Negev employs fewer than 3% Arab workers despite the high Arab populations in those regions.

“We are asking the government to put a new goal by 2022 that Arabs should comprise 15% of the public service and be 15% of all government offices and ministries,” he said. “It is also necessary to pay attention to rank. The overwhelming majority don’t have high positions and aren’t decision-makers.”

At a gathering in the Knesset on Tuesday to discuss the report, MK Ahmad Tibi demanded immediate establishment of a parliamentary commission of inquiry to “reevaluate the absorption of Arab workers in government ministries.”

MK Yael German (Yesh Atid) said, “This gathering is part of the struggle against exclusion of the Arab society. We live in an era in which the discourse on equality focuses on equal rights for the Jewish population while the Arab population is excluded-beneath the surface and on the surface. Including the Arab population in workplaces is the way to take down the walls of racism.”

The Prime Minister’s Office did not respond to a query over the low percentage of Arab workers. Foreign ministry spokesman Emanuel Nahshon said: “The main way to be employed is the cadet’s course. We take the best people – Jews, Christians and Muslims.” But, he said, few Arabs apply for jobs.

In 2009, the cabinet decided to support the goal of 10% representation by offering rent subsidies for new Arab employees who move from the periphery to Jerusalem and to open up new positions for Arab students.

But since then, there has been no cabinet action on Arab public service employment.

“Since 2009, there has been no new cabinet decision, no new goals have been set, the effectiveness of the incentives in which the state invested has not been assessed and there has not been use of active recruitment mechanisms for the Arab sector,” the report said.

Arie Grunblat, spokesman for the Civil Service Commission, said, however, that the commission is always trying to increase the percentage of Arab workers. Ministry deputy directors-general must give periodic reports to an inter-ministerial committee on what they have done to achieve “appropriate representation,” he said. “A ministry that does not meet the goals will not get approval for bringing in more outside workers until it does so.”

The commission also cooperates with nongovernmental organizations to “see where the blockages” to Arab employment lie, he said. It gives rental subsidies of NIS 2,000 a month for new Arab employees who live in the Galilee and must move to Jerusalem, he added. Payment for transport once or twice a week so that the employee can be with their family is also provided.

But Grunblat says not enough Arabs are submitting their candidacy for positions “because it’s mentally hard for them to leave their village in the Galilee and move to Jerusalem.”

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