Israel’s government is a parliamentary democracy, meaning it is run by an elected coalition and professional staff. The ruling coalition is made up of the winning party in the general elections and those parties with whom it is able forge a majority (61 seats) in the Knesset. Political parties not included in the ruling coalition, but with enough votes to secure seats in the Knesset, make up the Opposition.
Arab and Jewish-Arab parties have always been part of the Opposition in Israel. Notable exceptions include the Rabin administration’s reliance on Arab parties’ votes in the Knesset, and the nomination of a handful of Arab MKs to government ministries (as ministers or deputy ministers) through majority Jewish parties. MK Salah Tarif and MK Ghaleb Majadele, both from the Labor Party, were the only Arab ministers in a government in Israel so far.
Different prime ministers have formally recognized along the years that the Arab minority in Israel was neglected by the government for decades. This manifested for example, in unequal budget allocations, substandard governmental services in Arab localities, and under-representation of Arab civil servants in public institutions.
Over the past decade, government bodies and committees, such as the Orr Commission, the Bank of Israel and the National Economic Council, as well as the OECD, identified socio-economic gaps between Arabs and Jews as a serious challenge to the well-being of the state and recommended urgent response from the government to close them. In addition, many civil society organizations emphasize the value of enhancing equality in budget allocation as an important asset to Israeli social cohesion, and specifically ensuring diversity within the government as one measure of preventing discrimination.
As a result, a number of key governmental resolutions have been passed, establishing new institutions and allocating significant budgets to close gaps and bolster Arab community development. A few notable examples are:
- Efforts to increase the percentage of Arab professionals and civil servants in governmental bodies and public institutions to at least 10%. The percentage in 2007 was an estimated 6% and has since risen to closer to 8%.
- The creation of specialized bodies, notably the Authority for the Economic Development for the Arab, Druze and Circassian in the Prime Minister’s Office, a special employment and infrastructure department in the Ministry of Economy, and a special committee within the Council for Higher Education’s Planning and Budgeting Committee.
- Nation-wide programs to enhance economic development and standard of living in Arab society.
- Public campaigns to promote the equal employment and diversity in both the public and the private sectors.
Despite these unprecedented investments, projections by the Ministry of Economy, government officials and civil society experts warn that successfully bridging gaps will require significantly more resources to stem negative impact to living standards overall.