In numerous cases, contributions to Arab municipal budgets substantially exceed contributions to equivalently situated and sized Jewish locales, let alone the larger and more established Jewish cities where government allocations amount to a fraction of the municipal bud- get. In 2018, for example, relative disbursements to the Arab towns of Umm Fahm, Kafr Qassem, Arabeh, Qalansawa, and Tamra were 1.5 times higher than to development and/or Haredi towns (e.g., Beit Shean, Beit Shemesh, Ofakim, Dimona, Bne’i Brak), twice as high as those to lower middle class Jewish towns (e.g., Eilat, Ashdod, Bat Yam, Or Akiva), and nearly four times higher than to more affluent Jewish towns (Ramat Hasharon, Raanana, Kfar Saba, Giv’at Shmuel, Hod Hasharon, Qiryat Ono). Writes Efraim Karsh
What about the Israeli Arabs’ standard of living? In the late 1940s, following the flight of its more affluent classes and the breakdown of economic relations with neighboring Arab states, the Arab minority in Israel was left largely impoverished. As they became increasingly incorporated into local economic life, Arabs experienced a steep rise in earnings and a visible improvement in their material circumstances. By the early 2000s, more Arabs than Jews owned the dwellings they lived in—91.5% vs. 68.6% in 2000; 82.3% vs. 70.4% in 2008; 87.6% vs. 69% in 2018—with housing density in the Arab sector dropping sharply (e.g., the percentage of four-plus persons per room fell from 11% in 1984 to 0.8% in 2009) and Arab ownership of key durable goods often surpassing its Jewish counterpart. In 2018, for example, 99.9% of Arab households owned refrigerators compared to 99.8% of Jewish households. The same applied to deep freezers (45.4% vs. 21.4%); washing machines (98% vs. 96.3%); televisions (97.2% vs. 86.2%); two cellular phones or more (86.1% vs. 74.7%); at least one car (74.6% vs. 72.6%); and electric scooters (4.9% vs. 3%).
Contrary to the standard image of cramped neighborhoods and acute land shortages, population density in Arab localities is substantially lower on average than in equivalent Jewish locales. While Jewish neighborhoods in central Israel, where most of the country’s popula- tion lives, are hopelessly congested—27,847 persons per square kilo- meter in B’nei Brak; 18,703 in Giv’atayim 15,765 in Bat Yam, 10,301 in Holon, and 8,894 in Tel Aviv, among other places—the urban Arab population in the same area enjoys a much more spacious existence: 2,325 persons per square kilometer in Taibe; 1,894 in Tira; 2,162 in Umm Fahm; and so on. Even the Galilean city of Nazareth, Israel’s largest and most congested Arab locality, has a population density of 5,465—less than a fifth of its Jewish equivalent.
As for income statistics, it is undeniable that, on average, Israeli Arabs still earn less than Jews. But to what is this attributable? For one thing, the average Muslim in Israel is 8.5 years younger than his or her Jewish counterpart;24 all over the world, younger people earn less. For another thing, far fewer Arab women enter the labor market than do Jewish women (e.g., 25% vs. 64% in 2016), with the attendant lower family income.25 The salience of these and other factors—family size, level of schooling, cultural tradition, and so forth—may be judged by looking at segments of Israeli Jewish society like the ultraorthodox (Haredi) or residents of development towns (localities established during the 1950s and 1960s to absorb the fresh waves of Jewish immigration, mainly from Arab and Muslim countries), whose income levels more closely resemble those in the Arab sector.
Consider for example the earning situation in Arab Nazareth and the mostly Jewish Upper Nazareth (renamed Nof Hagalil in 2019). While the average monthly salary in Nazareth is lower than in Nof Hagalil (NIS6,788 vs. NIS7,751 in 2018), average self-employed monthly earnings there are higher: NIS9,338 vs. NIS9,228. No less important, income inequality was lower in Arab Nazareth than in Jewish Nof Hagalil: 0.4 vs. 0.41 on the Income Gini coefficient (a value of 0 represents absolute equality, a value of 1 absolute inequality).
Similarly, in 2003-13 the average monthly salaries of Arab teachers grew by 66%, compared to a 62% increase in Jewish state schools and 57% in Jewish religious and Haredi schools, putting their remuneration on a par with the religious sector and far above those in the Haredi sector (NIS10,313 vs. NIS7,686 in 2013). In primary education, salaries of Arab school managers were higher than those of their Jewish counterparts (NIS22,722 vs. NIS22,217 in 2012) and far higher than those in the Haredi sector (NIS22,722 vs. NIS18,044).
Nor has the government given short shrift to the economic needs of the Arab sector. Allocations to Arab municipalities have grown steadily over the past decades and are now on a par with, if not higher than, subsidies to the Jewish sector. By the mid-1990s, Arab municipalities were receiving about a quarter of all such allocations, above the ratio of Arabs in Israel’s overall population, and their relative growth has continued to date.
In numerous cases, contributions to Arab municipal budgets substantially exceed contributions to equivalently situated and sized Jewish locales, let alone the larger and more established Jewish cities where government allocations amount to a fraction of the municipal bud- get. In 2018, for example, relative disbursements to the Arab towns of Umm Fahm, Kafr Qassem, Arabeh, Qalansawa, and Tamra were 1.5 times higher than to development and/or Haredi towns (e.g., Beit Shean, Beit Shemesh, Ofakim, Dimona, Bne’i Brak), twice as high as those to lower middle class Jewish towns (e.g., Eilat, Ashdod, Bat Yam, Or Akiva), and nearly four times higher than to more affluent Jewish towns (Ramat Hasharon, Raanana, Kfar Saba, Giv’at Shmuel, Hod Hasharon, Qiryat Ono).
The state’s efforts to improve the Arab sector’s socioeconomic lot gained considerable momentum in the 2010s. Manifested in a string of government decisions—from a five-year plan for the economic development of 12 localities comprising a quarter of Israel’s Arab population (2010), to two multi-annual plans for the development and empowerment of the Druze and Circassian sectors (2011, 2016), to four plans for the development of the Bedouin community (2011, 2016, 2017), to a plan for improving personal safety in the Arab sector (2016)29—this affirmative action reached its peak on December 30, 2015 in the form of Government Decision 922. This authorized a NIS15 billion ($3.84) five-year socioeconomic development plan in the fields of education and higher education; public infrastructure and transportation; commerce and industry; employment; health; public security; sports and culture; construction and housing; and municipal, social, welfare, and community services.
End of Part Four
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