According to data released by the offices of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Vice Premier Shimon Peres, the Israeli government will invest a total of 930 million shekels ($216 million) in the Arab sector in an attempt to strengthen northern Israel in the next year and a half.
This investment in Arab communities represents 33 percent of the total 2.8 billion shekels the government has set aside to strengthen and develop Israel’s northern region after the war with Hizballah last summer. This money will be allocated to develop non-Jewish towns and villages in the areas of health, infrastructure, education and employment. The details of the plan have been completed and some programs have already begun taking shape on the ground.
Sources within the prime minister’s office and the office of the vice premier say that the plan represents a strategic change in the scope of investments, development and advancement of the non-Jewish sector in Israel. The program itself was formulated and led by Director-General of the Prime Minister’s Office Raanan Dinur.
The projects to be launched include a 25 million shekel investment in industrial zones in the Arab sector. Businesses in the tourism industry will receive 18 million shekels dedicated exclusively for the non-Jewish sector in the north. In addition, 5.4 million shekels will be dedicated to branding and marketing rural tourism in the Bedouin, Druze and Circassian sectors. Millions more will go to the development of the old city of Acre.
The plan also calls for renovating and repaving roads in the Arab sector. The Interior Ministry will invest a total of 260 million in Arab municipalities while the Ministry of Education will dedicate 200 million to education in Arab communities.
Olmert emphasized the government’s commitment to the Arab sector and said that the war did not discriminate between communities. Peres said that the government is obligated to develop and strengthen the Galilee without discriminating between Jews and Arabs and with full obligation to all of its citizens.