New coalition: What were right-wing factions’ concessions to Arab Ra’am party?

Yemina, New Hope signed on to a halt on all demolition of illegal Bedouin structures in the Negev for the next three months as well as recognition of three towns within 45 days of the government’s establishment. 

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

In exchange for supporting the socalled unity government that was announced Wednesday night, the Islamist Ra’am party, without getting a seat at the ministerial table, received a string of financial and political goodies worth tens of billions of shekels that could transform the Arab sector in Israel.

After signing the deal with Yesh Atid head Yair Lapid, Ra’am chairman Mansour Abbas said that they had agreed on solutions for “burning issues” in Arab society, including, among others, employment, economic development, construction planning, “and of course, the eradication of crime and violence.”

The solutions will cost the state NIS52 billion over multiple years.

Israeli Arabs consider the growing violence in their towns and villages as one of the biggest dangers to their society. Much of it, but not all, is attributed to organized crime. Abbas received a five-year economic plan with a NIS30 billion budget that will set aside NIS2.5 billion of it to fight all crime and violence in the sector.

The second-biggest chunk of the pie – NIS20 billion – will be spent over 10 years to improve infrastructure in Arab towns. In addition, an annual NIS100 million will be granted for each of the next five years for projects promoting “the advancement of Arab local authorities.”

Ra’am also received relief in the touchy area of illegal Arab construction. The 2017 Kaminitz law, which greatly helped to minimize the problem by sharply increasing fines, demolitions and evictions, has been frozen since November. The freeze will now be extended until the end of 2024, and the attorney general will be asked to mitigate or annul fines that have already been issued. Unnamed amendments to the law will also be on the table in the coming months.

The phenomenon of widespread, unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev has been a thorn in the side of Israeli governments for many years, with proposed solutions being rejected repeatedly by the sector’s representatives. Abbas has won a halt on all demolition of illegal structures for the next three months as well as recognition of three towns within 45 days of the government’s establishment. In addition, he was promised that a plan will be adopted within nine months that would regulate all unrecognized villages. A blueprint for their economic, agricultural and industrial advancement will also be prepared.

The growth of illegal Bedouin land grabs in the Negev has been an ongoing issue.

Read  Ra’am Party head: Hamas ‘part of the Palestinian people’

“In recent years, the State of Israel seems to have lost its grip: Sovereignty in the southern region of Israel has been relinquished to the state that is slowly being built in the Negev,” NGO Regavim stated in March.

“More and more illegal enclaves continue to spring up throughout the territory – and all the while, the Israeli government continues to turn a blind eye,” Regavim said.

If installed, the government will also address the issue of Arab underemployment, at least in public offices. A new program will be established to ensure that Arabs are represented in official positions and public companies according to their percentage of the population. Arab Israelis constitute roughly one fifth of the populace.

Abbas expressed great satisfaction with the agreement he reached and acknowledged the historical aspect of it, stating, “This is the first time an Arab party is a partner in forming a government.”