Zoabi’s Return Conditioned on Transfer of Funds to Arab Towns

By Shmuel Smith

Minister Issawi Frej attends Meretz faction meeting at the Knesset (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

YERUSHALAYIM – MK Rinawie Zoabi’s decision to rejoin the coalition was in order to safeguard the transfer of funds for the Arab community in Israel, Kafr Kanna mayor Izz al-Din Amarna told the Times of Israel.

Amarna explained that this was the intention of Regional Cooperation Minister Esawi Frej’s enigmatic statement following the meeting in which coalition leaders and Arab mayors persuaded Zoabi to return to her post. “The meeting was in good faith, when it is clear that maintaining the integrity of the government and the coalition is in the top interest of the Israeli public in general and the Arab public in particular. We will do everything to turn the crisis into an opportunity to strengthen government commitment to Arab society,” Frej said.

Amarna said that “hundreds of millions of shekels” promised to Arab communities as part of a five-year plan to reduce inequality between Arab and Jewish towns have yet to be transferred.

The mayors demanded that the government accelerate the disbursement, and “there will be a vote in the Finance Ministry to disperse this money soon,” Amarna said.

A Yamina statement stressed that no new funds were offered in the negotiations with Zoabi; rather, the discussion centered on the release of already agreed-upon funds.

The Likud suggested otherwise on Sunday, asking “What have Bennett and Lapid promised and how many millions were given to MK Zoabi for the survival of the coalition? Bennett and Lapid give 50 billion shekels to [Ra’am leader] Mansour Abbas, hundreds of millions to the Joint Arab List, now some more millions to Zoabi. But for our soldiers they are not willing to give 50 million shekels to finance our proposal [for 100% tuition funding for IDF soldiers who have completed military service, which the coalition is only willing to fund at a level of 75%]. For shame!”

The Meretz MK said she will again vote together with the coalition, which will stand at 60 MKs, according to Channel 12 news.

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