Israeli Government Set to Invest $150 Million in Growing Arab Presence in High Tech
by Benjamin Kerstein
The Israeli government is set to adopt a five-year plan that will invest heavily in promoting high tech and science within the Arab sector.
Israel’s Walla news reported Tuesday that the plan has been formulated by Minister of Science, Technology, and Space Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Ra’am party head Mansour Abbas, chair of the Knesset Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs, over a series of recent meetings and consultations, and the plan was finalized on Monday.
While the plan has yet to be given an official budget, it is believed that it will eventually amount to half a billion shekels in funding, or about $154 million.
Although Israel is known worldwide as a high-tech powerhouse, Arab participation lags far behind, with only 2% of high-tech workers coming from the Arab sector.
The new plan aims to combat this in several ways. It includes an education initiative that will teach the fundamentals of science and high tech, the establishment of 30 technology and science centers in the Arab sector, two new research and development centers in Arab population centers in Israel’s north and south, and a joint program with the United Arab Emirates to launch a satellite that will observe the moon in order to set hyper-accurate times for Muslim holidays.
In addition, the Israel Innovation Authority will increase funding and preferences for high-tech projects originating in the Arab sector, as well as professional training.
Farkash-Hacohen said, “The integration of Arab society in more economic fields, and the field of innovation in particular, is a national interest: the high-tech world is thirsty for workers, and the Arab community can and must be part of these industries in a meaningful way.”
Abbas commented, “The Arab community is filled with capabilities, talents, and energies to lead in this field, and there are many opportunities that must be exploited.”
Defense Minister Benny Gantz, head of the Blue and White party of which Farkash-Hacohen is a member, said he is “happy about this blessed cooperation, and [looks] forward to future plans and cooperation with additional populations.”