Housing minister, Arab lawmaker get close look at Galilee housing problems
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Housing minister, Arab lawmaker get close look at Galilee housing problems

Yoav Galant visits northern villages with Joint List head Ayman Odeh to study obstacles to development

Housing Minister Yoav Gallant (second from left) and MK Ayman Odeh (second from right) stop at Eilabun, a village 15 kilometers (9 miles) south-west of Safed, during a tour of Arab villages in the Galilee, January 12, 2016. (Courtesy)
Housing Minister Yoav Gallant (second from left) and MK Ayman Odeh (second from right) stop at Eilabun, a village 15 kilometers (9 miles) south-west of Safed, during a tour of Arab villages in the Galilee, January 12, 2016. (Courtesy)

Housing Minister Yoav Galant toured the Arab villages of the Galilee Tuesday to get a first-hand view of the housing and development problems of the region’s Arab communities.

He was joined on the tour by Arab Joint List chairman MK Ayman Odeh.

The tour follows the dramatic announcement at the end of last month that the government had unanimously approved an NIS 15 billion ($3.84 billion) five-year plan to invest in development in the Arab and other minority communities in an effort to tackle inequality.

The plan announced by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon and Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel aims to “advance a systematic and structural economic development plan for the minority sector,” the Prime Minister’s Office said in a statement.

“This is a significant addition designed to assist minority populations and reduce [socioeconomic] gaps,” Netanyahu said. “The plan will lead to the end of single-family home construction and a transition to high-rise construction, as exists throughout the country. At the same time, the plan will strengthen law enforcement in the minority sector with an emphasis on illegal construction.”

The proposal will focus on Israel’s communities of Muslims, Druze, Christians and Circassians — members of a displaced ethnic group originating in the Caucasus, now spread across the Middle East, of which there are about 4,000 living in Israel.

Representatives of the minority communities worked with officials from the PMO and the two ministries to hammer out the details of the program.

Muslims, Druze and Christian Arabs make up slightly less than two million people, just under a quarter of the Israeli population.

After the government’s announcement, President Reuven Rivlin, who has advocated for development and equality for minorities, telephoned Netanyahu and Kahlon to congratulate them on passing the plan, which he called “a turning point, and an unprecedented confidence-building measure.”

Gamliel said: “For the first time, the government of Israel is changing the allocation mechanisms in government ministries so that Israel’s Arab citizens will receive their relative share in the state budget.”

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