Another insightful comment by the Head Heeb, who, like many of us, are still in the process of getting our thoughts together on the situation in Gaza.
… Five months ago, the Israeli Supreme Court struck down the existing system of allocating development priorities, finding that it discriminated against Arab towns, and gave the government a year to implement a new system. The cabinet has now taken the first step in implementing the ruling by designating all Arab municipalities in Israel as high-priority development zones:
The government has decided to define all the Arab communities in Israel as class A development area in terms of capital investment in the fields of tourism and industry. Development areas in the country are eligible to state funding and tax benefits, aimed at encouraging businessmen to invest there.
The decision bears far-reaching significance, as it would allow dozens of Arab communities to receive various benefits from the government. The law to encourage capital investments in Israel enables entrepreneurs to receive assistance in establishing industrial factories, hotels and tourist attractions.
In some ways, the designation of development priorities may actually have more impact than government budgeting, because it can be implemented by private investors. Promises of government-sponsored development often take years to materialize or are shelved for political reasons. In contrast, tax breaks for private investors can be followed up immediately and are less vulnerable to the yearly budget bargaining.
Much of the initial investment is likely to come from Arab businessmen, who have constructed some big projects in Arab municipalities (like the recently-opened mall in Umm al Fahm) but have in other cases steered investment toward Jewish areas for tax or workforce reasons. In time, though, if certain Arab population centers become growth areas, Jewish-Israeli and foreign money could follow. Many of the larger Arab municipalities in Israel have the population and legal status of cities; if the new investment rules enable them to make the transition to cultural and economic centers, then places like Umm al Fahm and Taibeh could join Nazareth as cities in truth. If Israel is to maintain long-term social cohesion, it’s essential that this happen.