Proposed budget cuts will have an adverse effect on Arab youth

The 15% budget cut in the 5-year plan is liable to negate the progress made to date and to increase the level of violence in Arab society.This is a decisive moment in Israel’s responsibility for Palestinian society – and for Israel as a whole.

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In recent years, national attention has turned to integrating Arab youth into the Israeli labor market. The latest five-year plan to reach that goal (2021-2026), based on Government Resolution 550, was intended to narrow socio-economic gaps and to increase the civil involvement of young Arab citizens. However, the proposed budget cut of 15%, higher than other proposed cuts,  is a significant threat to that undertaking; moreover, it is liable to exacerbate the serious problem of young Arabs who are neither enrolled in educational institutions nor employed or participating in vocational training programs.

The inactivity of young Arabs has repercussions beyond those for the individuals themselves. Inactivity leads to a decrease in feelings of capability, faulty interpersonal skills, social isolation, depression and economic burdens on households. Inactivity perpetuates socio-economic gaps, increases poverty levels and burdens community social services.[1] Finally, there is a correlation between the high percentage of inactive Arab youth and the high crime rate among members of this group.

According to the State Comptroller’s Report,  there is a disturbing gap between Arab and Jewish youth:  25% of young male Arabs and 34% of young female Arabs are to be found in the catetory of inactive young people, compared with 14% of young male Jews and 17% of young female Jews. Moreover, according to the report, Arab Youth in Israel (2023), some 40.5% of Arabs between the ages of 18 and 24 are below the poverty line, compared with 14.8% of Jews in the same age group.[2] Since the outbreak of the “Iron Swords” war, there has been a significant decrease in employment among Arabs; thus the poverty rate among Arab youth is expected to rise even higher.

The economic distress experienced by inactive young Arabs often leads to involvement in criminal activity; 48.6% of the criminal cases filed against persons aged 18-24 involve Arabs,[3] which is much higher than their percentage of the population in this age group (30%).[4]  In serious cases, criminal activity is liable to deteriorate into organized crime or terrorist actions.

For the very purpose of preventing such eventualities, the Israeli government earmarked 1.4 billion shekels for initiatives to provide employment opportunities for young Arabs, focusing on the development of professional skills, increasing Hebrew language proficiency and obtaining employment.  This program is central for dealing with the problem of inactive Arab youth, and it is expected to reduce the threat of falling into crime and violence.

This is a decisive moment in Israel’s responsibility for Arab society as well as for Israel as a whole. A budget cut in the 5-year plan – especially the planned cut of 15% — according to the revised budget for 2024 – is liable to negate the progress made to date and to increase the level of violence in Arab society.

// The English version of this article was originally published in The Times of Israel, on 21 February 2024.

[1] Miaari and Haj-Yahya. Inactivity Among Arab Youth in Israel. 2017. Israel Democracy Institute (Hebrew).
[2] Arab Youth in Israel, p. 190.
[3] Ibid. p. 141.
[4] State Comptroller’s Report (May 2023), p. 141.