This position paper was written in the wake of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich’s decision not to transfer to the Arab municipalities a total of NIS 314 million in state budget funds, contrary to the position of the professional echelons in the Finance and Interior Ministries and of Interior Minister Moshe Arbel.
While not explicitly enshrined in a Basic Law but recognized as a fundamental right derived from Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty, the right to equality as it pertains to state budget allocations is anchored both in ordinary laws and in a plethora of Supreme Court rulings. The obligation to allocate state funds equitably is stipulated in, among others, Article 3a of the Budget Foundations Law-1985, which states that these will only be doled out “based on criteria of equality.” Ruling on a petition to cancel the designation of national priority areas for budgetary purposes, the Supreme Court reiterated the government’s duty to conduct itself equally toward Israel’s Jewish and non-Jewish citizens and affirmed that this duty is one of the foundations that make Israel a Jewish and democratic state.
Zulat’s position is that this is a racist and downright illegal decision. Its factual basis is a conspiracy theory advanced by the Right during the Bennett-Lapid government combined with the racist position and political needs of Smotrich and fellow government ministers. It suits the political needs of the coalition parties ahead of the upcoming municipal elections and befits authoritarian regimes that deny minority human rights, use divide-and-rule practices, and blame their failures on minorities. It is an illegal decision given that the law does not authorize the Finance Minister to create a separate mechanism for the Arab municipalities but only to set general criteria/oversight for all municipalities in the country. This is the first time that a government minister has acted on the repeal of the reasonableness standard, which illustrates the danger that the regime revolution would pose upon its finalization.