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Smotrich Holding NIS 200 Million Allocated for Arab Sector

Aug 7, 2023

Israel Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich confirmed freezing NIS 200 million allocated for the Arab sector. The minister acknowledged that most of the Arab community suffers from inadequate learning infrastructure. Nonetheless, the finance minister on Sunday reconsidered the release of the grant targeted to finance the construction of schools.

Smotrich from the Religious Zionist Party confirmed reexamining the utilization of the grant earmarked to support the Arab residents in Israel. The remarks coincide with mounting criticism by Arab authorities of efforts to weaken the community’s standing by freezing the budgets.

Lift the Freeze to Avoid Plunging Arab Community into Education Crisis

The Arab authorities are portraying concerns that the community would suffer if the Religious Zionist Party-led coalition halts budgets meant to finance transportation and education infrastructure development. The Arab community decried that freezing the allocations would delay schools opening initially scheduled for September.

The Arab communities reveal their learning inadequacies is worsened by the absence of classrooms and schools. They estimate the shortfall as 305 in the entire country. They acknowledge that the budgeted grant would have resolved the inadequacy by funding schools’ construction.

The frozen budgetary allocation featured in the agenda of the Naftali Bennet-Yair government. The allocation was part of the five-year plan with NIS 15 billion allocations during Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government.

The grant under the extension granted by the previous government was estimated at NIS 30 billion. The allocation targeted funding new infrastructure, transportation, education improvement, and crime reduction within the Arab sector.
Government Ministries Support Freezing Funds to Arab Communities

Minister Smotrich’s remarks echo the stance adopted by the current government to backtrack from the initial plan. Such is evident in the remarks by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir recently demanding funds review.

Freezing the allocations portrays a widely shared move in the government. The Social Equality Ministry under Minister Amichai Chikli recently disclosed plans to redirect the funds towards the haredi sector.

Chikli, who also doubles as Diaspora Affairs minister, admitted the existence of internal debate within the government concerning the fund’s utilization. The government composition has led to concerted efforts to reallocate the funds towards benefiting the haredi sector.

Plans to Redirect Budgeted Funds Towards Facilitating Waste and Pollution Reduction Campaigns

The move to reconsider funding programs for Arab communities features the Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman’s proposal to hive off NIS 100 million. The allocation is targeted to fund campaigns to combat community waste and pollution.

Smotrich’s pronouncement towards freezing the funds is causing criticism within the coalition. Interior Minister Moshe Arbel penned a demand letter seeking the release of funds. The letter illustrated that the continued freezing of the funds would damage the budget.

Arab Authorities Warning State Over Costly Bails to Recover From Freezing

Arbel warned that freezing the allocation would cost the Israeli state above the NIS 200 million. In particular, he indicated that the freeze would compel the state to make deeper allocations to meet the larger deficit that Arab authorities would suffer.

Smotrich’s office revealed that the coalition demands giving Ayelet Shaked to Mansour Abbas. The finance ministry reaffirmed freezing the funds till the conclusion of the inspection. Also, the office assured that it would unfreeze the funds upon completion of oversight mechanisms in place.

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