Government set to implement 5-year, NIS 500 million tech plan for Israeli Arabs

Ra’am, Blue and White lawmakers reportedly agree to sweeping outline to boost science and high-tech participation in Arab community

Luke Tress is a video journalist and tech reporter for the Times of Israel

Illustrative: Arab and Jewish students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on the first day of the academic year, October 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)
Illustrative: Arab and Jewish students at Hebrew University in Jerusalem on the first day of the academic year, October 18, 2015. (Miriam Alster/Flash90)

The government is reportedly set to implement a five-year plan worth over NIS 500 million ($154 million) to boost high-tech and science programs in Israel’s Arab community.

Information and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party, held a series of meetings on the proposed program in the past month and agreed on the details for a final plan on Monday, according to the Walla news site.

The plan will include educational programs, vocational training for jobs in high-tech fields, technology incubators for entrepreneurs and startups, and science museums, among other measures, the report said.

The program’s budget has not yet been rubber-stamped, but is expected to be included in funding Ra’am agreed to in coalition negotiations that included programs for the Israeli Arab community. The program is expected to get underway after the state budget is approved.

The government has budgeted NIS 628 million ($193 million) in total for science and high-tech programs for the next five years.

Israel’s Arab community makes up around 20 percent of the country’s population, but accounts for only around 2% of workers in high-tech.

The plan agreed to by Abbas and Blue and White’s Farkash-Hacohen will include educational initiatives in fields related to high-tech and will establish 30 technological centers in Arab communities. Arab Israeli students will also be included in a joint space program planned with the United Arab Emirates, the report said.

The plan will also open two research and development centers in northern Israel and the Negev, incubators, centers for entrepreneurs and programs for angel investors to boost investment in startups. The Innovation Authority will give preferential funding to Arab community programs and will support professional retraining programs for research and development positions.

The government that was formed last month must pass a budget for 2022 by November or it will automatically be dissolved, forcing the country to hold elections, which would be its fifth since April 2019.

Government support for Israel’s Arab community was a focal point of coalition negotiations, as the new government relied on an Arab party to establish a majority, a first in Israel’s political history.

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