(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) Director-General Ra’anan Dinur met this afternoon (Tuesday), 19 September 2006, with the national forum of Arab local council heads and briefed them on the Arab sector’s role in the plan to strengthen Haifa and the north. He estimated that approximately one-third of all government budgets in the plan will be transferred to projects in the Arab sector, an additional third will be designated for infrastructure projects in the north as a whole, and the final third will be transferred to projects in the Jewish sector. He added that most of the Jewish organizations with which the government is in contact have expressed willingness to contribute funds to the Arab sector as well: “Like us, they understand that the recent war did not distinguish between communities and therefore, all communities must be viewed as a whole.”

The chairman of the Arab local council heads committee said that he was not uncertain that Government funds would reach Arab citizens due to, “the councils’ inability to handle such amounts.” PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur replied that a significant portion of the NIS 450 million that will be transferred to strengthening the local councils would assist the Arab local councils. He added, “We all know that in order to thoroughly deal with the matter, both sides of the equation will have to be dealt with.”

PMO Dir.-Gen. Dinur said that a careful review must be made not only of the manner in which Arab citizens were dealt with by the state, but of the low municipal tax collection rates in the minorities sector as well. “It is unlikely that we will seriously succeed in rescuing the Arab local councils from their plight unless the council heads take it upon themselves to show unpopular leadership by assuring higher municipal tax collection rates,” he said.