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Zoabi was not promised any new funding to return to coalition, say those in meeting

Carrie Keller-Lynn is a political and legal correspondent for The Times of Israel

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left, center) meets with Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (second from right) in Jerusalem on May 22, 2022. (Courtesy)
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (left, center) meets with Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi (second from right) in Jerusalem on May 22, 2022. (Courtesy)

As part of today’s deal that returned Meretz MK Ghaida Rinawie Zoabi to the coalition merely three days after she left, promises were made to transfer existing funds — rather than new — to Arab municipalities, says Kafr Manda Mayor Ali Khader Zidan.

Zidan, who was one of several Arab municipal mayors to join Rinawie Zoabi in an afternoon meeting hosted by Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, says that while the amount of money is in the “millions” of shekels, it is not newly budgeted.

“It’s not an issue of budgets that were agreed upon, it’s an issue of budgets that were promised in the coalition negotiations and they haven’t arrived,” Zidan tells The Times of Israel. “So what needed to happen was to plan a system by which the money will arrive in the field and to fix the regulations so that the money will arrive in Arab municipalities.”

A Yamina statement echoes Zidan’s statement, noting that no new funds were budgeted in the negotiations with Rinawie Zoabi; rather, the release of already agreed-upon funds was discussed.

As part of coalition negotiations with the Islamist Ra’am party, significant funding was obtained for addressing infrastructure, crime and socioeconomic issues in Arab cities. However, much of the money has yet to appear in municipal coffers.

“There’s been neglect for Arab society as if it’s not part of [Israeli] society,” Zidan says, adding that Arab municipalities do “not [receive] equal money compared to what’s given to the Jews.”

“And therefore there’s been discrimination for many years. And it’s time. We’re part of the coalition,” Zidan says. “And there should be real equality between Arab and Jewish society.”

Zidan, who supports Rinawie Zoabi’s return to the coalition, echoes a complaint from her resignation letter, in which she wrote that “the underside [second-class] of the coalition is always Arab.”

“It’s important that the government and the coalition should behave with responsibility and honor toward Arab society, if it’s in behavior, deed, or money, and that we are partners in every way,” says Zidan. “They should treat us equally with how they treat Jewish society.”

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