Israel Update - Winter 2015

Israel Update - Winter 2015

February 10, 2015

ballot PM Ramat-Efal-Conferenc-Participant Rahat


Civil Society

In the Media



Arab Parties Unite

On Thursday, January 23rd, the two Arab and one Jewish-Arab parties (Ra'am-Ta'al, Balad and Hadash) announced a historic merger into a single united list. The merger took place as a result of the new electoral threshold (which increased the percentage of votes required to enter Knesset from 2 - 3.25%.)

Although there is widespread popular support for the merger and Arab voter turnout is expected to rise by as much as 10%, Arab citizens remain uncertain of what the joint list will be able to achieve. Many see the united list as a way to prevent the right-wing from winning the elections. Others are concerned the party will not be able to maintain unity due to the deep ideological differences within.

According to initial platform guidelines released on February 2nd, the united party is committed to and will pursue the rights of Arab citizens as a national and indigenous minority in the state of Israel; an end to the occupation, a just peace and the creation of Palestinian State; equal rights of Arab citizens; social justice and equal rights for all; solutions for poverty, unemployment and environmental protection; the rights of women; and the cultural and religious autonomy of Arab society in Israel as part of a multicultural democracy. The guidelines include specific mentions of the party's intention to work for the recognition of all Bedouin villages in the Negev, to bring an end to land confiscation and house demolitions, to work for the development of Arab towns and villages (for private housing as well as commercial development), and protect the standing of Arabic as a formal language in Israel.

While few expect the Arab list would join a government coalition, Israel’s Channel 10 reported that Labor leader Isaac Herzog approached Arab party leaders about joining a government he’d lead or supporting it from the sidelines to create the critical mass needed to deny Netanyahu a fourth term.

Outside of the joint Arab list, Arab candidates have been selected for realistic positions in mainstream and Jewish parties. MK Isawi Frej, who served as MK in the previous Knesset, was elected to the 3rd seat in Meretz' primaries. Zohair Bahaloul was elected for the 17th seat with the Zionist Camp, and MK Hamed Amer was nominated for seat number 6 with Yisrael Beytenu.



Yisrael Beytenu's controversial slogan

slogan billboardYisrael Beytenu, under Foreign Minister Liberman, launched their campaign with the slogan "Ariel for Israel, Um El Fahem for Palestine," referring to Lieberman's controversial plan for population transfer between Israel and a future Palestinian state. The slogan was met with numerous condemnations and a petition has been filed against Yisrael Beytenu with the Central Elections Committee.

The petition, filed by MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) and a group of Arab and Jewish activists refers to Yisrael Beytenu's proposal for populated territory exchange as "not recognizing Arab citizens as having equal rights and seeking to expel them." MK Issawi Frej (Meretz) wrote that "the citizenship of Umm al-Fahem residents does not depend on Liberman or members of his party."

FM Liberman, for his part, has also filed a petition with the Central Elections Committee, to disqualify the merged Arab party due to "Balad's connection to known terrorist organizations." 


Government Updates

NIS 660 million government development plan for Arab society

A proposal by the Prime Minister's office to allocate $168 million (660m NIS) for economic development of minority communities in Israel in 2015 received cabinet approval on Sunday, December 21st. The development package will mostly benefit the country’s 1.7 million Arabs with projects targeting transportation, economic growth, and tourism.


Ministry of Justice reaches out to Arab law students

On January 12th, the Ministry of Justice held the second in a series of gatherings to encourage Arab, Druze and Circassian law students to intern and ultimately work at the ministry. This is part of the government's efforts to enhance the number of Arab civil servants in Israel's public sector.


Ministry of Economy establishes Management Corporations for Arab towns

The Ministry of Economy established Management Corporations for a number of Arab towns with a total budget of 1.5 million NIS to help local municipalities develop and maintain industrial zones. Towns included are Kafr Qassem, Mghar, Qalansawa, Tamra, Teira, Arraba, and Kafr Kanna. Prior, the only Arab locality that had such a body was Um El Fahem. This decision is in part a product of successful efforts on the part of INJAZ to improve Arab municipalities capacities to generate revenue.

New Arab city near Acre

In November 2014, the National Council for Planning and Building announced the approval of a new Arab city near Acre. The city would be the first non-Bedouin Arab city to be erected in Israel since the state's establishment. It is planned for a population of 40,000 and will be connected by a planned railway between Acre and Karmiel.


Ministry of Economy 10M NIS tender for Arab hi-tech integration

Two Israeli NGOs, ITWorks and Tsofen, were awarded a 10 million NIS tender over 3 years to increase integration of Arab professionals in Israel's hi-tech industry and the expansion of hi-tech industry into Arab localities. The tender is part of a Ministry program launched in 2012 to advance the rate and quality of Arab employment in Israel.



Civil Society Updates


The Forum for Diversity in Hiring (founded by JDC-TEVET and Kav Mashve) took HR directors from major Israeli companies on a tour of Arab workforce potential in the Galilee. The group visited Melanox in Yokneam, and the Riyan Employment Center in Sakhnin.


Sikkuy hosted more than 130 Jewish and Arab leaders from Israel's government, industry and civil society in November for a conference on "Regional cooperation between Jewish and Arab local councils: opportunities and challenges," part of their Equality Zones partnership with USAID. In addition, Sikkuy launched a Shared Regional Tourism Project to enhance tourism and related infrastructure in Arab localities.


MA'ASE’s first "Shared Encounters" seminar this year, entitled "My place in Israeli society,took place at Givat Haviva with over 600 young Ma'ase program participants from 60 communities countrywide – Jews and Arabs, Druze and Bedouin, new immigrants and native born, religious and secular.


The Abraham Fund Initiatives launched a non-partisan action plan to increase Arab voter turnout for the upcoming general elections, including student conferences, a media campaign, and special efforts to make voting more accessible for Bedouins in the Negev.


Kav Mashve won tenders issued by the Council for Higher Education, the Education Ministry and The Authority for the Economic Development in the Arab Sector to operate their High School Career Preparation Program in 50 Arab high schools throughout the country and expand their career centers to more universities and colleges.


As the main organizer of the Global Entrepreneurship Week, Tsofen brought Jewish and Arab hi-tech entrepreneurs into Arab high schools at 22 events in the Galilee, the Triangle, and the Negev exposing over 2,000 Arab high school students to the hi-tech industry.


Moona space and technology center launched in the Arab city of Majd Al Kurum, that aims to enhance entrepreneurship and scientific–technological innovation as a means for regional development in the Galilee. Watch Shimon Peres congratulate this achievement.


Merchavim held two conferences and published guides in November to support the integration of Arab teachers in Jewish Schools. The program to integrate 500 Arab teachers of English, Math and Science into Jewish schools was launched in partnership with the Ministry of Education in 2012 and has 89 teachers currently placed.



Issues in the Media

Protests in Rahat and Bedouin/Police tensions

Rahat ProtestsIn January, in the Bedouin city of Rahat, a police raid on drug dealers resulted in the death by police fire of a 22 year old Bedouin bystander, Sami el-Ja'ar. Relations between police and Negev Bedouin were already a raw nerve in the community. When a police car crossed paths with his funeral procession, violent clashes ensued. Dozens of Bedouin were wounded, stone throwers were detained by police, and an additional youngster, Sami al-Zayadna, died of a heart attack. In response, the Arab Folllow Up Committee called a general strike throughout the country and additional protests took place the following week. Rahat’s mayor, Talal Al Krenawi, said a complete, thorough and transparent investigation into both deaths is needed before trust between the Bedouin community and police can be restored.

Rahat’s week from Hell - Jewish Journal - Simone Wilson - 1.29.15
PHOTOS: Bedouin protest deadly police shootings in Israel - +972 Magazine - Yael Marom, Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, and - 1.21.15
Nationwide strike, ongoing protests follow Bedouin deaths - Times of Israel - AFP and Tamar Pileggi - 1.20.15


'Price Tag' violence and vandalism

"Price Tag attacks" or anti-Arab violence and vandalism, have continued these past months, including arson at the Hand in Hand bilingual school in Jerusalem and physical attacks against individual Arab citizens. In response, Tag Meir, a coalition of 48 organizations held a number of activities, including a major event in November 2014 in which Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered together at 5 different locations across Israel, to hand out 1,500 flowers and prayers to passersby. The prayers were printed in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Likewise, the network of five Hand in Hand schools together with numerous civil society organizations held a number of solidarity activities, marches and events and representatives of Hand in Hand were invited to light candles with President Obama at the White House.

Hand in Hand School torched in an arson attack - IATF - 12.1.14
Druze attacked by gang of Jews in Jerusalem after speaking Arabic - YNET - Roi Yanovsky - 1.23.15
Hate crime in Jerusalem: Tires on 11 cars in Beit Safafa punctured - Haaretz - Nir Hasson - 1.14.15


Recent publications by Israeli colleagues



ACRI and the Arab Center for Alternative Planning:
Rights of Arab Residents Regarding Illegal Construction

The State of Human Rights Report

Promoting Partnerships between Jewish and Arab Municipal Authorities

Injaz and Sikkuy:
From Deficits and Dependence to Balanced Budgets and Independence - The Arab Local Authorities

Sikkuy, Dirasat and The Van Leer Institute:
Arabic and Arab Culture on Israeli Campuses: An Updated Look



Building common Democratic language in Israel - Jewish News UK - Rabbi Naftali Rothenberg, Van Leer Institute - 2.2.15

Death at Rahat and how to avert disaster - Times of Israel  - Kher Albaz – 1.28.15

Why Is Bilingual Education In Israel A Threat To Some, And A Need For Others? - Wexner Foundation - Uri Gopher, Director of Hagar Bilingual School - 1.14.15

How to purge racism from Israel’s public spaces - +972 Magazine - Ron Gerlitz, Co-Executive Director of Sikkuy - 1.7.15

If Not Now, When? - Huffington Post - Ron Kronish, Director of the Interreligious Coordinating Council in Israel - 11.13.14


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