The head of the Joint List, MK Ayman Odeh (Hadash), attacked Israel’s current government at a conference in Nazareth on Wednesday, November 15, for failing to work with the Arab citizens of the state on economic development. “Partnership is the key to the success of the Arab community,” Odeh said at an economic conference held in Arab Nazareth that was sponsored by The Marker, the economic section of the Ha’aretz daily newspaper. “Yet this is only the first time that representatives of the Finance Ministry have cooperated with representatives of the Arab community to embark on an economic program that will benefit Arab society…. Without the involvement of the Arab community, the government is basically saying that it has something to hide, or that our society is not ready for it.”
While Odeh welcomed the increased public expenditure, he added that the government’s plan failed to address issues such as legalizing Arab homes that were built without a permit, disparities in the criminal justice system, and the failure of social welfare programs.
“Since 1948 the State of Israel has built 700 new towns for Jews, but how many new towns have been built for Arabs? Zero! This is not just politics; this is discrimination and racism. The absence of any governmental policy leads to illegal construction and building violations on land not currently zoned for domestic residence, but actually owned by these “lawbreakers,” Odeh said. “I submitted a proposal to the Prime Minister’s Office two years ago, saying that we will promote outline plans to expand the municipal jurisdictions” of Arab municipalities, which were vastly decreased in size following 1948 by intentionally discriminatory governmental land expropriations. As a result, for an example cited by Odeh, while the number of persons living in mostly Arab Nazareth is twice that of those in predominantly Jewish Upper Nazareth, the latter is twice the size of former. “Since the founding of the state, Israel’s governments have followed a policy of non-development when it comes to land set aside for the Arab population.”
Odeh also criticized the budgetary allocations for not dealing with poverty, and for under-emphasizing the importance of female participation in the workforce, a huge factor in hidden unemployment among the Arab cities, towns and villages. Odeh also condemned the police for failing to invest sufficient time and energy in apprehending suspects in crimes of violence within Arab communities, where 80 Arab citizens have been murdered in the recent past with only 3% of the cases solved.