Gov’t to Allocate Millions to Arabs to Keep Ra’am in Coalition


A view of Jisr az-Zarqa, an Israeli-Arab town on Israel’s northern Mediterranean coastal plain. (Moshe Shai/FLASH90)

Acting Prime Minister’s Office Director-General Naama Schulz has committed to promoting the allocation of millions of shekels in additional funding for the Jisr az-Zarqa Regional Council within the framework of negotiations to keep the Islamist Ra’am party in the coalition, Yisrael Hayom has learned.

Jisr az-Zarqa made headlines during Operation Guardian of the Walls in the Gaza Strip in May of last year when rioters from the northern Arab-Israeli town threw rocks at Highway 2, leading police to shut the thruway to traffic.

In talks Schulz held with Ra’am last week, Abbas demanded the government advance the additional funding. Yisrael Hayom reported that within the framework of the talks on canceling Ra’am’s suspended membership in the coalition, the Islamist party demanded that additional funds, beyond that which was agreed upon in the coalition agreement, be allocated to the northern town.

In November, the government approved a five-year plan to close gaps between Arab and Jewish society that included the development of Jisr az-Zarqa. The government has further approved a specific plan for the town to be promoted by the Social Equality Ministry.

According to the draft version seen by Yisrael Hayom, in addition to the 40 million shekels (around $12 million) allocated to it as part of the five-year plan, Jisr az-Zarqa is set to receive tens of millions of shekels in funding.

According to one clause, the Welfare Ministry will allocate a further 16.5 million shekels (around $5 million) in resources to the town in addition to the money promised in the five-year plan. In addition, the Transportation Ministry will allocate funds for the paving of a bypass road that includes the creation of an interchange at the entrance to the town, described in the draft as “diverting Highway 2 eastward.”

A source close to Foreign Minister and Prime Minister-designate Yair Lapid said, “The decision had already been made to promote a targeted solution for the Jisr az-Zarqa community in Resolution 550, within the framework of which it was decided to allocate a total of 40 million shekels to the community’s needs alongside other provisions the community was eligible to receive.”

They said that Jisr az-Zarqa is “a very weak community that suffers from major gaps in education, welfare and infrastructure. This is the only Arab community situated on the coastal strip, and we intend to help it realize its potential. Within the framework of the agreements with Ra’am, it was decided that Schulz and various government ministries, chief among them the Social Equality Ministry, would help promote the decision so that it receives government approval in the coming months.”

Members of the opposition took the coalition to task for the report.

Opposition leader and Likud party head Binyamin Netanyahu wrote: “To maintain his seat, Bennett continues with the wholesale liquidation of the state to the Shura Council.”

Religious Zionism Party head Bezalel Smotrich wrote: “Minute by minute [we see] the exorbitant prices of the wholesale liquidation of this government to the Islamist movement for its survival. As expected, Ayelet Shaked was the first to fold and finance terrorism and crime without any of the oversight mechanisms she promised, in order to whitewash the illegal construction by the Bedouins and allow them to take over more and more land. We won’t forget and we won’t forgive.”

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