«On December 30th 2015, the Government of Israel approved Resolution No. 922, known as the Economic Development Plan for the Arab Sector (the ...»
Government Resolution 922
Economic Development Plan for the Arab Sector
Current Status, Government Workplans
and Civil Society Involvement
On December 30th 2015, the Government of Israel approved Resolution No. 922, known as the
"Economic Development Plan for the Arab Sector" (the “Plan”).1 This groundbreaking, five-year
plan is the largest and most comprehensive ever advanced to close gaps for Israel’s Arab
society. It calls for allocations of NIS 10-15 billion to simultaneously address multiple barriers to economic development. The Plan is unprecedented not only in scale and scope, but in its call for proportional budgeting by government ministries (an acknowledgement of inequality in existing allocation mechanisms), in that funds allocated are almost entirely not conditioned on matching by Arab localities, and in the close consultation between Arab leadership and government officials in its development.
In the seven months since its approval, government, civil society and municipal leadership have shifted focus to implementation. The Plan articulates numerous targets for employment, education, transportation, zoning, housing, child-care, policing and more, but leaves specific budgeting and operational details up to individual government ministries to develop. While a couple of programs have launched, by and large, ministries have been working on rendering detailed workplans and preparing for their respective areas of execution. The major components of each ministry’s plan as articulated to date is included in the Ministry Workplans section below.
Arab leadership, and municipal leadership in particular, which was key to development of the Plan, now needs mechanisms for continued involvement in its implementation. In this transitional period, systems are being put in place to enable consultation, transparency and coordination between Arab leadership and government officials, a sensitive and important task considering past disappointments, lack of trust, and skepticism about the Plan in Arab public discourse. In addition, both government and civil society organizations are working to build up the operational and administrative capacities of Arab localities so they can effectively implement programs essential to the Plan’s success.
The following update outlines efforts to prepare for effective implementation and touches on the atmosphere in which it is taking place. It then provides summaries of government ministries’ detailed workplans including goals, budgets, and specific programs when available.
Finally, the last section describes the role of civil society organizations in implementation, and their additional possible involvement as the Plan unfolds.
1 See the original Hebrew version of the Resolution here.
We would like to thank our Israeli colleagues and especially Mr. Aiman Saif, Director of the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector and his team for their generosity in time and information. This paper could not have been written without them.
TRANSPARENCY AND COORDINATIONThe scale and number of stakeholders involved in the Plan necessitate an extraordinary amount of coordination between government ministries, between government officials and Arab leadership, and with civil society organizations. One of the significant characteristics of the Plan has been the close consultation between Arab leadership and government officials thus far, 2 and the expectation that Arab localities will serve as a central framework for program implementation.
Sensitivities related to mistrust between Arab leadership and the national government, competing interests in specifying budget allocations, and the interdependent and controversial nature of some of the Plan’s work areas (i.e. housing and land development), make transparency and collaboration an even greater priority.
At the top level, the Plan is overseen by a Steering Committee composed of the Director Generals of all the relevant Ministries, the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector (in this section, “the Authority”), and the Head of the Arab Mayors Forum.3 The Authority, responsible for ongoing monitoring and operational coordination, together with the
Ministry of Finance (MOF) have worked towards unprecedented inclusion of all stakeholders:
Hosting major conferences with Arab municipal leadership: On May 17-18, 2016 the Authority brought together government officials and 250 Arab mayors, heads of councils, and senior professionals to discuss the progress of the Plan, present each Ministry’s workplans and open them for discussion. Efforts to convene mayors and professionals from Arab localities for consultation and learning seminars will be ongoing.
Creating a Hebrew/Arabic online collaboration platform: Unveiled at the Nazareth conference in May, this website provides all primary stakeholders with ongoing access to Ministry workplans, up-to-date and reliable information about progress, specific projects, and upcoming tenders with opportunities for consultation and dialogue.
Publicly tracking implementation: In partnership with the MOF, the Authority is tracking implementation and budgeting of each workplan. In June, an online table (Hebrew only) 4 with current status per workplan was made public, followed by a table in July (Hebrew and Arabic) 5 with total budgets and 2016 allocations.
Publishing budgetary distortions report: In July, an MOF report (Hebrew)6, was made public at the request of the Arab Mayors Forum. This report was the conceptual backbone for the Plan and details government budgets that have been allocated “in a manner unaligned with policies and criterias for supporting weak communities” and may have exacerbated economic gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens.
2 The Plan was developed by the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector and the Ministry of Finance along with Arab mayors, represented by Mayor of Sakhnin Mazen Ghanayem who is Head of the Arab Mayors Forum, and Arab Members of Knesset, led by Chair of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh.
3 The Arab Mayors Forum, established in 1974 by 15 heads of Arab localities from the North, is an extraparliamentary representative body for Arab society. Today the Forum represents all Arab mayors and heads of councils and focuses on socio-economic issues (i.e. construction, education and economic development) and issues of national and collective concern (e.g. calling for national strikes and issuing political statements). Source: The Abraham Fund Initiatives, Arab Society, Information Binder, second edition, 2013, Chapter 8 – Arab Politics I Israel, pp. 60-61 (Hebrew) 4 Table tracking implementation 5 Hebrew table available here; Arabic table, here.
6 Link to the MOF report detailing budgetary distortions.
2 Convening NGO roundtable: On July 25, 2016, the Authority convened 20 leading Jewish, Arab and joint NGOs along with representatives of the Arab Mayors Forum and MK Ayman Odeh, Chair of the Joint Arab List to explore the role and establish coordination between relevant civil society actors. The Authority takes primary responsibility for monitoring, inter-ministerial cooperation, follow up and oversight of implementation and seeks NGOs’ abilities to identify unaddressed needs and communicate feedback from the field.
Within Arab society, the Arab Mayors Forum is serving as a central coordinator. It established a representative working group in April to negotiate with government institutions on behalf of the Arab community. The Forum is also working together with the Authority to enhance coordination and division of labor between local councils, civil society organizations and Knesset members, and among civil society organizations assisting Arab localities. As discussed in the next section, local Arab administrations have a key role in implementation but face a host of challenges in establishing readiness to administer and reap the potential benefits of the Plan.
Civil society and philanthropic organizations, potentially instrumental in numerous aspects of implementation, are still working with both the Authority and the Arab Mayors Forum to assess specific needs and possible roles. This is discussed in a dedicated Civil Society section following Ministry Workplans.
ARAB LOCALITIESLocal Arab councils and municipalities, with a few outstanding exceptions, are weak, poorly resourced 7 and themselves in need of significant development support. 8 Many are also inexperienced or harbor misgivings about working with the national government. Likewise, government institutions often lack adequate knowledge and experience in working with Arab localities.
Much of the success of the Plan hinges on the ability of Arab localities to build sufficient administrative capacity and on the interface between Arab localities and government officials. A
few measures are built into the early stages of Plan implementation to address this:
Excelling Arab Localities: This program, the first to officially launch as part of the Plan, invests NIS 330 Million over five years in enhancing managerial and financial capacities of 16 selected Arab localities and working with them to develop engines for local economic growth. The program was launched on March 6,, 2016 by the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector, the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Finance. In the first year, the 16 localities will receive NIS 50 Million of the total budget. (Read more in Ministry of Interior workplan) Consultants: The Plan includes a cadre of consultants to assist Arab localities in mapping needs, developing plans, submitting bids for government tenders, and interfacing with ministries.
Civil society organizations are also working closely with local Arab administrations and are involved in numerous aspects of the Plan. This is further elaborated in the Civil Society section following summaries of the workplans.
7 The vast majority of Arab localities are on the lowest three rungs of Israel’s socio-economic municipal ratings scale.
8 For more, see for example the following paper produced by Sikkuy and INJAZ: From Deficits and Dependence to Balanced Budgets and Independence - The Arab Local Authorities’ Revenue Sources, Michal Belikoff and Safa Agbaria Edited by Shirley Racah, April 2014.
PUBLIC DISCOURSEBy and large, the Plan has been welcomed by government officials and by Arab leadership as an important development for Arab society and for Israel’s economy as a whole. At the same time, there are concerns among Arab leadership about its implementation. Government plans, unlike laws, can be suspended without being subject to any legal enforcement. Though more government budgets have been going towards Arab economic development in recent years, a number of those commitments were suspended before being fully realized, leading to skepticism about the actualization of the Plan despite its approval. In addition, since the Plan’s approval, it has been met by a number of efforts from within the government to make implementation conditional on compliance by Arab localities, often on sensitive and controversial matters.
A recent example is the attempt by the Cabinet to condition Plan funding to Arab towns on their demolition of illegal structures. Response from Arab society was strong, resisting not only the condition but the framing: Mayor Mazen Ghanayem, Head of the Arab Mayor’s Forum, said illegal construction “is the result of years of discrimination with respect to planning and approval of master plans,” and that the solution is to legitimize some of the illegal houses while working to find solutions for housing in Arab localities. 9 More generally, MK Yousef Jabareen has emphasized that Arab leadership insists allocations in the Plan be seen as the “rights of our community after decades of discrimination, not a privilege.” 10 So far, despite occasional efforts, no part of the plan has been made conditional on controversial compliance.
MINISTRY WORKPLANSThe following tables summarize workplans developed by the ministries involved in the Economic Development Plan 11 focusing on major program areas and budgets. As this is a fiveyear plan, many of the budgets are incremental, assuming the first year will be dedicated to planning and launching programs and that full scale may only be reached in the second or third year. In addition, while some budgets are available as hard numbers, many are set as percentages of total Ministry spending on a particular area—part of establishing precedents for preferred or proportional budgeting for Arab society. Finally, some plans are not fully rendered, leaving entire areas either vague or not yet represented in the details below.
In terms of the status of budget allocations, these tables offer a snapshot from July 2016 of what is in reality a constantly changing process. Current estimates indicate the total budget for the entire Plan is approximately NIS 9.7 billion. In addition, the Ministry of Education will spend another NIS 5.8 billion for more teaching hours to the weakest communities in Israel (most of which are Arab).
In the first year of the program (fiscal year January to December 2016), many disbursement processes are just being put into place. In addition, allocations are subject to the policies and protocols of their respective governing ministries and many programs are only in planning stages, not yet ready to absorb funds. As a result, in the tables below, budgets indicated as allocated in 2016 may refer to funds committed, funds disbursed, or stages in between. That 9 Israeli Arabs Cry Foul on Move to Tie Funding to Home Demolitions – Haaretz – Jack Khoury – 6.20.16 10 Arab budget deal to go ahead despite delay, ministry says – The Jerusalem Post –Ariel Ben Solomon – 6.15.16 11 The Development Plan's Steering Committee, composed of Director Generals of all ministers involved, the Authority for Economic Development of the Arab Sector and the Head of the Arab Mayors Forum, met on June 19 and approved the various workplans, including some of their specific budgets. Some of the budgets are still under negotiation.
• Arab citizens will be given higher priority in all Ministry's programs and budgets, in removal of barriers, and in development of targeted programs