Imagine that your son or daughter studies in a classroom with more than 40 other children because there is a lack of classrooms in your city. Imagine that your city has no industrial zone, and no place or opportunity to succeed in the business you dream of. Imagine that you’ve just got married, but there is no place to live because no new neighborhoods are being built in your city to absorb newlyweds. Imagine that you represent 20% of the state’s citizens, but receive only 5% of the state budget. Would you accept this situation?
The government will soon discuss the 2005 state budget even while we are all still suffering from the Thatcherite economic policies implemented in the 2004 budget. Indications are that the situation will not improve, but will only grow worse, while unemployment rises and the fruits of economic development remain the province of a few wealthy souls.
The Arab population suffers from persistent discrimination in the budget. In the language of numbers, no more than 5% of the state budget is allocated to the Arab population, which will continue to create gaps in education, standards of living, social and health care, employment, and other fields.
What does this mean? It means that thousands of Arab children learn in inadequate circumstances due to a shortage of about 1,800 classrooms. It means that the drop-out rate among Arab students has increased to twice that of Jewish students. It means that there is a shortage of about 40,000 housing units, and that Arab communities continue to top the list in unemployment, poverty, and infant mortality.
Arab women pay double the price. Unemployment among Arab women stands at about 80%, although about half of them want to join the labor market. The situation in the Negev is on the verge of exploding as more than 75,000 Arab-Israeli citizens live in unrecognized villages, without water, electricity, or health and education services. When a village is unrecognized, the house in which one lives is necessarily built illegally. There is a special police unit whose job it is to demolish such homes.
Even when the government responds to some of our demands and decides to grant us a certain budget – even a very meager budget – the money is not actually spent, or only part of it is spent as needs accumulated year after year are neglected.
The Musawa Center prepared a comprehensive plan of the needs of the Arab population and their budget demands for 2005. The plan was based on ongoing research and analysis conducted in conjunction with local authorities in Arab communities. The demands focus on actually using the budget approved, NIS 1.5 billion of which was not spent in 2004. This is in addition to NIS600 million that was deducted from last year’s budget to balance the budgets of Arab municipalities.
The Israeli government is not acting rationally, even regarding its monetary policy. The holes that have been created over the years now require sums to be invested that will clearly exceed the gains made by successive Israeli governments when they limited the budget allocated to the Arab public. Discrimination has grave consequences. For every shekel saved, vast amounts of money are now needed to plug the holes. For example, every classroom built today will in the future save the vast sums that would have been spent to care for students who dropped out of school.