Tuesday, November 05, 2019

Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be the second favorite target of Democratic Presidential candidates and fringe left-wing groups -- not all that far behind Donald Trump.

That may seem odd, considering that Israel is a long-time ally of the US. Contrast that with, Iran, a global sponsor of terrorism where crowds of people chant "Death to America," a country with a long-standing practice of holding Americans hostage.

But Netanyahu, not Khameini, is the villain.
The reason given is the treatment of the Arabs -- both Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs.

But those posting the de rigueur boilerplate accusations against Israel of "Apartheid," "Genocide," and "Racist" have no interest in what is actually happening in Israel. While there is clearly a difficult and challenging situation, there is a process of integration going on.

Five years ago, in 2014, US News & World Report came out with an article suggesting that there was Slow But Certain Integration in Israel.

Robert Cherry and Robert Lerman, two economics professors, came to this conclusion based in part on the voluntary national service in Israel, relying on a 2012 survey from the University of Haifa. That survey found that 40% of Arab youth in Israel were personally willing to volunteer with the civil service and 62% of the Arab public were supportive. This represented a small decrease in support from previous years. There was Arab opposition to the idea of civil service, based on
o The assumption the project was linked to national security
o The fear civil service could become a precedent for imposing military or civil service duty in the future
o The belief such service would dilute the Palestinian-Arab identity
o The opposition to national service being administered by the state of Israel instead of the Arabs themselves,
Those Arabs who did participate in the program gave it high grades:
91.6% of the volunteers were satisfied with the service
o  95.8% were proud of their volunteering
o  96.4% said they were treated well
o  89.0% thought that volunteering contributed to Arab society
o  82.4% said their volunteering contributed to the state.
Still, as impressive as those numbers are, the fact remains that those entering the program would be favorably inclined to begin with.
Also, the Israeli government was not making any effort on its own to counteract the strong pressure Arab leaders applied against participating in the program.

What the Israeli government did do was take steps from the social to the economic spheres. According to Cherry and Lerman, Israel was not limiting the goal of just employing Arabs in government agencies:
The educational performance of Arab students has improved significantly as well, leading to a substantial increase in enrollment in Israeli universities. More Arab women are employed in professional careers, and Arabs with high-tech training have transformed Nazareth into a hub where numerous national and international companies run production development sites.
But how invested is the Israeli government -- and Netanyahu -- in investing in those educational opportunities?

Just last month Haaretz came out with a piece asking Could Netanyahu Actually Be Good for Israel's Arabs?

The article notes that in 2015, one year after the article by Cherry and Lerman, the Finance Ministry conducted a secret study of budgetary discrimination between Israel’s Jewish and Arab communities -- and wanted to directly address the problem head-on with a new program, Resolution No. 922: a five-year Economic Development Plan for the Arab Sector:
This would involve not a one-time payment to the country’s Arab communities, as had been made in the past, rather it would change the budgeting mechanisms fundamentally, so that the population would receive its fair, proportionate share of support in some areas, like public transportation, but a favorably disproportionate amount in other areas, as part of a process of affirmative action [emphasis added].
There were several disagreements and opposition to the program, but after 3 cabinet meetings, it was pushed through.
By Netanyahu.

And he pushed the proposal through in the form presented by the budget committee, with only a few added conditions.

Ron Gerlitz, who was involved, is quoted in the article. He had a birds-eye view of the proceedings and admits it is not clear why Netanyahu actually backed the plan. It may have simply been an issue of Israel's economic interests, or a decision to support Kahlon and the budget department -- or maybe Netanyahu wanted to offset the negative impact of previous anti-Arab statements.

In any case, not only did the resolution pass; in the end, it passed unanimously.


Amos Ben Gershom/GPO, for Haaretz
The changes resulting from the program, according to Haaretz, are real:
o  According to the Central Bureau of Statistics, over the past 7 years, the number of Arab students enrolled in universities and colleges in Israel has risen by 80%.
o  Over 5 years, the number of Arabs studying computer sciences, and the number pursuing master’s degrees (in all fields) have both jumped 50%
o  The number of Arab students studying for a Ph.D. has soared 60%.
o  During the last decade, the number of Arabs working in high-tech has increased 18-fold -- and 25% of them are women.
o  By 2020, it is estimated that Arabs will make up 10 percent of the country’s high-tech work force
o  The proportion of Arab doctors in Israel has climbed from 10% in 2008 to 15% in 2018
21% of all male doctors are Arab, according to the Health Ministry.
There is a natural carryover into the ability to get a job. In the private sector, for example, the proportion of Arab civil servants rose from 5.7% in 2007 to 11.3% in 2017.”

That's how the Israeli Arabs are benefitting.
What about the Palestinian Arabs?

According to another article in Haaretz, coming out last week, Palestinians Are Attending Hebrew U in Record Numbers, Changing the Face of Jerusalem.

Haaretz correspondent Nir Hasson writes that Hebrew University has seen an overall trend showing a growth of hundreds of percent of Palestinian students being accepted into bachelor degree programs over the last 10 years. This runs counter to the traditional trend of Arab Palestinians who live in East Jerusalem attending universities in the West Bank and in Arab countries. From just a few dozen Palestinian Arabs in Jerusalem attending Hebrew University 10 years ago, last year 586 students from East Jerusalem attended -- 18 doing doctorates and 69 doing other graduate degrees. The most popular degrees were education, social work, communications, international relations and nursing.

Why the change?
o The separation barrier makes it more difficult to study at Palestinian universities
o Changes to regulations make it harder for Arabs with degrees from Palestinian institutions to work in Israel
o The Council for Higher Education provides funding which makes it possible for Israeli universities to offer stipends to nearly every Palestinian student who meets the requirements
o The convenience of the new light rail system also plays a part in the decision to study in Israel
There is more to this educational advancement than economic opportunity. University studies are also bringing Jerusalem’s Palestinian and Israeli Jewish societies closer together. There is a rise in the demand for Israeli citizenship and an increase in the number of Palestinians working in West Jerusalem.

According to Hasson, in Jerusalem, the social taboos forbidding forging ties within Israeli society have weakened. So too the taboo against applying for Israeli citizenship and criticizing someone who chooses to study at an Israeli institution.

While it may be slow, there is some real change going on.

According to Gerlitz, the change extends to the attitudes of Israelis as well. According to him, on the Israeli side, there is an attempt to compensate for the demotion of Arabic as an official language. Arabic studies are flourishing and there is a rise in the use of Arabic in public, to the extent that there are Arabic signs on the trains and buses -- something he says you did not see just 2 years ago. He believes the separation between Jews and Arabs is "cracking," on the campuses, for example, where Arab graduate students serve as teaching assistants for Jewish undergrads. And then there is the beach:
A Jewish boy who goes to the shower and hears Arab children laughing no longer thinks they are necessarily terrorists. When a Jewish kid in Be’er Sheva takes the bus to basketball practice and hears the name of his bus stop in Arabic, he’s no longer frightened it’s the language of terrorists. That is also the reality in Israel.
On a more pragmatic level, Ben Avrahami, the mayor’s adviser for east Jerusalem affairs, says
it is dripping into the consciousness [of Arabs] that Israel is a reality and that if east Jerusalemites want to improve their lives, they might be willing to pay the price of integration.
Clearly, there is a long way to go and many hurdles that Israel faces in addressing the issue of its Arab population.

But if this 5-year economic plan can show that it not only is capable of improving the lives of the Arabs but also encourage their integration and "Israelfication" -- what would Trump's peace plan actually be capable of doing?

We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.

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Elder of Ziyon - حـكـيـم صـهـيـون

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