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Finance minister to renew funds to Palestinians amid backlash | Israel-Palestine conflict news

Israeli Finance Minister Reverses Decision on Funds for Palestinian Communities

Recently, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich announced that his ministry would unblock funds for Palestinian communities in Israel after previously suspending the money. The initial suspension was met with outrage from local mayors and lawmakers who argued that the funds were necessary for the well-being of the Palestinian-majority councils.

Smotrich, a member of Prime Minister Benjamin ’s far-right government, had claimed that the budget funds for Palestinian-majority local councils were a payoff from the previous government, which could potentially end up in the hands of “criminals and terrorists.” However, his were met with , as they were seen as discriminatory and offensive.

It is important to note that Smotrich has a history of making anti-Palestinian remarks, including dismissing the existence of the Palestinian people and calling for the destruction of a Palestinian town in the West Bank. These further fueled the controversy surrounding his decision to suspend the funds.

In response to the suspension, Palestinian-majority councils organized a strike, and community leaders held demonstrations outside government offices. The National Committee of Arab Local Councils in Israel accused Smotrich of , adding to the growing backlash against his remarks.

However, on Monday, Smotrich appeared to reverse his position and announced the creation of an oversight mechanism to transfer funds to Palestinian communities. He stated that the goal was to prevent criminal organizations from taking over the budgets allocated to Arab authorities.

The situation highlights the ongoing struggles faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up approximately a fifth of the country’s population. Despite holding and having the right to vote, they have long endured and underfunding. Many Palestinian communities within Israel are marginalized and lack essential resources.

This discrimination is further underscored by the passing of Israel’s nation-state bill in 2018, which established Israel as the national homeland for the Jewish people while downgrading the status of Palestinians and their Arabic language. Palestinians have continuously voiced their grievances, stating that they are treated as inferior to Jewish citizens.

Moreover, Palestinians are often targeted and arrested for their participation in protests against settler violence and Israeli forces’ actions in occupied East Jerusalem. In 2021, during Israel’s deadly assault on the Gaza Strip, hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets in protest, leading to the arrest of over 300 individuals.

The high levels of crime within Palestinian communities can be attributed to various factors such as a lack of policing, high poverty levels, and limited investment from the central government. These issues have resulted in a disproportionate number of Palestinian citizens of Israel becoming victims of violence. Since January, at least 157 Palestinian citizens of Israel have been murdered, marking a significant increase compared to previous years.

The recent controversy surrounding the suspension and subsequent unblocking of funds for Palestinian communities has once again raised about the unequal treatment faced by Palestinian citizens of Israel. While the reversal of the decision is a positive step, it is crucial that long-term solutions are put in place to address the systemic discrimination and marginalization experienced by these communities.

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