Interior minister pushes PM on five-year plan to aid Druze, Circassians – report

Northern minority communities need more resources, MK Moshe Arbel said to tell Netanyahu, especially in light of the war

Shas MK Moshe Arbel speaks at the Knesset, on May 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)
Shas MK Moshe Arbel speaks at the Knesset, on May 27, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Interior Minister Moshe Arbel has asked Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to help advance the passage of a five-year plan to support local authorities of Druze and Circassian communities, according to a Tuesday report.

The most recent five-year plan for the two minority communities expired in 2023, and the government has not approved a new one since despite many requests, Arbel, of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, wrote in a letter to the prime minister, the Walla news site reported.

“This situation, where there is no plan in effect, does damage not only to planning and construction, [but also] education, welfare, economic development, and more,” he reportedly wrote, adding that “we find ourselves now at the end of the first half of the year, after five months of stagnation.”

The Druze, an ethno-religious minority whose population is split between several Middle Eastern countries, number about 150,000 in Israel. Male Druze citizens are required to serve in the IDF, and draft at a rate comparable or higher to most Jewish communities in Israel, though women are exempt.

Israel’s Circassian community only numbers about 5,000, from a global population in the millions. The mostly Muslim minority is concentrated in two towns in the Lower Galilee. Circassian men are also drafted into the IDF.

Arbel cited these communities’ service, reportedly writing, “It goes without saying that these communities are among those who have contributed most to the war effort, and paid the highest price.

“Also important to note is that a significant portion of Druze and Circassian localities are situated along the [Israel-Lebanon border], and have suffered significant economic harm since the start of the war,” he reportedly added.

Smoke billows from the area of an Israeli air strike on the southern Lebanese village of Khiam near the border with Israel on April 8, 2024. (Rabih Daher / AFP)

The plight of Israel’s northern residents, many of whom have been evacuated from their homes and are now residing in government-provided accommodations, was the focus of a meeting on Sunday between Netanyahu and municipal heads from the region.

The local leaders reportedly pressed Netanyahu to give them a date by which residents would return to their homes, but the prime minister demurred, responding that doing so would signal his plans to Hezbollah.

Since October 8, Hezbollah-led forces have attacked Israeli communities and military posts along the northern border on a near-daily basis, with the group saying it is doing so to support Gaza amid the war there.

So far, the skirmishes on the border have resulted in 10 civilian deaths on the Israeli side, as well as the deaths of 14 IDF soldiers and reservists. There have also been several attacks from Syria, without any injuries.

Hezbollah has named 309 members who have been killed by Israel during the ongoing skirmishes, mostly in Lebanon but some also in Syria. In Lebanon, another 61 operatives from other terror groups, a Lebanese soldier, and dozens of civilians have been killed.

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