Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a structured dialogue between government officials and Israeli-Arab MKs to develop a socioeconomic plan for Israel’s largest minority on Thursday.
Netanyahu met with MK Ayman Odeh, chairman of the Joint Arab List on Thursday afternoon to discuss advancing the socioeconomic position of Israeli Arabs, his office announced. The prime minister proposed setting up a joint team comprising government officials and Israel-Arab MKs. Odeh told Haaretz on Thursday that he raised several issues and proposed freezing house demolitions in Arab communities.
He also sought to put on hold the evacuation of the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran for several months to allow time to reach a new deal with the government about the fate of its residents.
“The meeting was held in a positive atmosphere, but I can’t speak about concrete results as long as we don’t see action on the ground,” said Odeh.
Odeh described the encounter in an official statement as a complex working meeting, particularly in the shadow of a right win government and the things the prime minister said on Election Day.
“From my perspective, today’s meeting was a working meeting – in a period in which the Arab public in the country is in increasingly dire straits, when the most burning issue is the housing crunch, which can no longer be contained, and the threat of demolishing tens of thousands of households and throwing out tens of thousands of citizens into the street without a roof,” the statement read.
He said the most recent and harshest example is the government’s desire to demolish Umm al-Hiran in order to build a Jewish community. Odeh remarked that he presented Netanyahu with a detailed plan for comprehensive reform in Arab communities, and made a clear demand to stop immediately house demolitions. He called for a dialogue with citizens to find a real and legal solution to the housing crisis and to recognize unrecognized villages.
“In addition, I discussed with the prime minister the need to find quality and appropriate employment for Arab boys and girls, whose difficulty in being absorbed into the job market hurts all citizens and Israel’s capacity for economic growth in the end,” stated Odeh. “We also discussed the need for an equal distribution of ministerial budgets, a fair budgeting of local Arab authorities and providing Arab society with accessibility to higher education.”
Odeh said that to his regret the current government it seems that every attempt to discuss ending the occupation and pursuing a just peace is a farce. However, he felt it was his obligation to repeat to Netanyahu that the Palestinian people deserve freedom and a place under the sun. He added that “a just peace is in the interest of all Israeli citizens, Arabs and Jews as one.”