Israeli Jewish, Arab Leaders Meet to Discuss Arab Economic Plan

Israeli, Arab leaders meeting at President Rivlin's ResidencePhoto Courtesy of Mark Neiman (GPO).

Israeli, Arab leaders meeting at President Rivlin’s ResidencePhoto Courtesy of Mark Neiman (GPO).

Israel has launched a five-year economic plan to better the lives of its Arab citizens, and leaders from both the national Israeli government and local Israel-Arab leaders met on Wednesday to discuss the initiative. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, in a press release from the Israeli Government Press Office, called the plan “precedent setting” and “one of the most important decisions” ever made by the Israeli government. He wasn’t the only one touting the effort.

“This is a wide ranging and responsive plan which offers an immediate answer to the local authorities’ need to improve the lives of their residents, and at the same time contributes significantly to the education, cultural, employment, and housing infrastructure—which will serve as fertile ground for economic growth and a real narrowing of gaps,” Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel was quoted as saying. “The project will happen without conditions.” That the meeting was attended by Israeli Arab mayors and other leaders offered its own hope of better relations between Arabs and Jews.

“While unfortunately, there are those… who seek to cynically and maliciously sabotage our ability to establish trust between us, nevertheless we are here today because we believe in our path,” said Rivlin. “I look forward to hearing from you, Arab leaders, a clear expression of the Arab public’s contempt for such obstructive attempts. Our perseverance is being tested in difficult times.”

One of the Arab leaders present was quoted as expressing his thanks for the opportunity to discuss the project. “I welcome this project, and this meeting, at this time, and in this place—thank you Mr. President. I want to thank you unconditionally on behalf of all of us,” Chairman of the Committee of Local Councils, Mazan Ganaim was quoted as saying.

“This five year project is a good program, and we must implement it. There are no others who are more sensitive to the obstacles faced by the Arab community today. Our hand is extended in cooperation to all.”

The plan comes amidst a brutal campaign of terrorism by Palestinians against Israeli citizens and as some Israeli Arab leaders have proven much more divisive than helpful in their responses. But as one Israeli government member noted, this isn’t the first time Israel has sought to better the lives of the Arab populace.

“The Prime Minister [Benjamin Netanyahu] believes in the integration of the Arab society in Israel, and the Government under his charge has acted extensively in the last years to this end,” said Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, Eli Groner. “Much investment has been approved and implemented in this area in housing and employment.”

Groner noted that while this has improved the situation, gaps remain. So his comments ended with a promise not to let this enhanced plan fall to the ground. “Read my lips,” said Groner. “The Government is fully committed to the implementation of the plan.”

(By Joshua Spurlock,, February 24, 2016)

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