There seems to be widespread agreement in Israel’s left-wing media, and in mainstream media everywhere else, that Benjamin Netanyahu is an anti-Arab bigot. His policies, writes Robert Cherry, suggest something far different:
For a start, affirmative-action policies initiated under Ehud Olmert were accelerated during the Netanyahu administration. These prioritized economic development, including allocating funds for joint industrial parks in Arab and Jewish towns. Subsidies helped firms hire Arab labor and expanded transportation infrastructure, which allowed Arabs to reach employment sites. These ventures were so successful that the government began setting up industrial parks and employment offices exclusively in Arab towns. In addition, the Israeli government developed a five-year plan for improving Arab education and established a special unit in the prime minister’s office to promote economic development in the Arab community. . . .
At the same time, educational and occupational initiatives began to improve the possibilities for Arab women, whose labor-participation rates increased substantially. . . . As a result of [such] policies, between 2005 and 2011, the inflation-adjusted Arab net family income increased by 7.4 percent. . . .
Critics have tried to ignore or undermine these beneficial government policies. For instance, Palestinian nationalists have discouraged cooperation with Israel ministries. . . . When the government opened up national service to Arab Israelis [as an alternative to military service, from which they are exempt], nationalists, led by Balad-party activists, engaged in intimidation to discourage participation. Despite these efforts, enrollment grew dramatically and the sociologist Sammy Smooha reported that 90 percent of participants take pride and satisfaction in their service.
Another [example] of tunnel vision [can be found in] the liberal media, which give prominence to allegations or proven cases of anti-Arab sentiment among Israeli Jews. . . . But contra the liberal doomsayers, there is significant evidence of softening attitudes among Israeli Jews toward Israeli Arabs, despite the reverse not being the case.