Arab municipal leadership: Spearheading economic developmen...

Arab municipal leadership: Spearheading economic development and Jewish-Arab relations | Apr 7th

Apr 7, 2016 12:30pm

Arab municipal leaders are playing an increasingly central role in strengthening Jewish-Arab relations and economic development for Arab society in Israel. Backed by popular support and tapped into leadership networks, more Arab mayors and heads of councils are advancing a pragmatic and collaborative agenda and leveraging their influence on a national scale. The recent Five Year Development Plan for Arab Society, for example, was driven in large part by local Arab leadership and hinges on their participation. In addition, local Arab leaders have been among the most effective in preventing escalations when Jewish-Arab tensions are heightened due to current events.

Since taking office in 2008, Mazen Ghanaim, the Mayor of Sakhnin Municipality and Head of the Arab Mayor's Forum, and his City Manager, Kasim Abu Raia, have made the city of Sakhnin a model of development and fostered productive relationships with neighboring Jewish towns. Now they are working to support other Arab municipalities to do the same.

They shared their vision and the increasing influence of local Arab leadership in Israel with a Task Force Audience.

Event Details:
Thursday, April 7, 2016 - 12:30 PM
New York City

About the Speakers

Mayor Mazen Ghanaim
Mazen Ghanaim has been mayor of Sakhnin Municipality since 2008, re-elected for another five year term in 2013. He is also the head of the National Committee of the Heads of the Arab Local Authorities, as well as the Chair of the Towns Association for Environmental Quality (TAEQ), the environmental unit for 6 Arab municipalities, headquartered in Sakhnin. From 2013 to 2015, Mazen also held the position of the leader of the High Follow Up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel. In 1993, Mazen Ghanaim founded and then headed Sakhnin's soccer team, Bnei Sakhnin, until 2008. winning the national cup of Israel in 2004. In 2008, local leaders encouraged him to run for mayor, given that the municipality was suffering from severe debt. Mazen plays an important role in promoting Arab society, building professional capacity, strengthening regional cooperation, and advancing equality. His initiatives have helped Sakhnin to become a leader in education by bolstering its local college and improving its schools. Last year, he led the initiative to develop a five-year plan for economic development in the Arab society, for which the approval was a historic government decision to provide a budget of 15 billion shekels to the approximately 67 Arab municipalities to close the gap between the Arab and Jewish sector. Mazen has also been instrumental in improving the relationship with the neighboring Jewish local authority, Misgav Regional Council, working to resolve the decades-long land dispute and moving the relationship toward regional planning and cooperation. Under his leadership, the municipality of Sakhnin has become a model of success for the other Arab cities and towns throughout Israel.

Kasim Abu Raia
Kasim Abu Raia is the City Manager of Sakhnin Municipality, an Arab city located in Israel's Galilee region, a position he has held since 2002. Prior to this, Kasim served the municipality from 1993 as the Manager of Strategic Planning & Information Unit. In 2008, as city manager, he led the program to rescue the city from debt, leading to successful development after five years. In 2008, together with other prominent formerly Arab Israeli mayors and senior officials initiated and has since served on the Board of Directors of INJAZ, Center for Professional Arab Local Governance, a non-profit organization working to strengthen the capacity of leadership in Arab local authorities to advance social, professional and economic development. In 2015, Kasim was part of the founding team and director of Sakhnin Economic Development Corporation to develop economic initiatives as the arm of Sakhnin municipality for economic development. His previous positions include Manager of the Jerusalem branch of Herzliya Studios for TV studies from 1991-1992, and he was the Accountant and Finance Manager for Israel Commercial TV (ICTV) from 1982-1989, providing TV production and news coverage facilities to local and international TV Companies and news agencies. Kasim holds an M.A. in Political Science from the University of Haifa, an L.L.B. in Law from Netanya Academic College, an M.I.B.A. in Business Administration from Nova University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida where he received the Broward International Women's Club Scholarship, and a B.A. in Economics & Accounting from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Kasim is fluent in Arabic, Hebrew and English.