As part of today’s deal that returned Meretz MP Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to the coalition just three days after her departure, pledges were made to transfer existing funds – rather than new ones – to municipalities Arabs,” Kafr Manda Mayor Ali Khader Zidan said.
Zidan, who was one of several Arab municipal mayors to join Rinawie Zoabi at an afternoon meeting hosted by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, said that if the amount of money comes in “millions” of shekels, it is not newly budgeted.
“It’s not about budgets that were agreed, it’s about budgets that were promised during the coalition negotiations and they didn’t arrive,” Zidan told The Times of Israel. “So what had to be done was to plan a system by which the money would arrive in the field and to set the regulations for the money to arrive in the Arab municipalities.”
A statement from Yamina echoes Zidan’s statement, noting that no new funds were budgeted in negotiations with Rinawie Zoabi; instead, the release of already agreed funds was discussed.
As part of coalition negotiations with the Islamist Ra’am party, significant funding was secured to address infrastructure, crime and socio-economic problems in Arab towns. However, much of the money has yet to appear in municipal coffers.
“Arab society has been neglected as if it were not part of [Israeli] society,” says Zidan, adding that Arab municipalities “don’t [receive] the money equal to what is given to the Jews.
“And so there was discrimination for many years. And it’s time. We are part of the coalition,” says Zidan. “And there should be real equality between Arab and Jewish societies.”
Zidan, who supports Rinawie Zoabi’s return to the coalition, echoes a complaint from her resignation letter, in which she writes that “the underside [second-class] of the coalition is still Arab.
“It is important that the government and the coalition behave with responsibility and honor towards Arab society, whether in behavior, deeds or money, and that we are partners in all respects,” Zidan said. “They should treat us the same way they treat Jewish society.”