The Collapse of Arab Local Governments: Proposals for Restructuring attempts to discover the roots of the crisis in Arab local government, diagnose the internal and external obstacles it faces, and propose solutions.
Because Arab citizens of Israel are not in national positions of influence with regard to policy, they see local government as a governing body through which they can obtain resources, advance politically, and amass power, both locally and nationally. Thus, local government serves as the primary focus of their activity and provides the arena for action to realize their local and national interests in education, health care, infrastructure, and so on. True, Arab local government offers its participants political power and social prestige and promises the ruling group (clan, religious denomination, or political party) tangible advantages and a springboard to national politics.
However, Arab local governments are undergoing a severe crisis. The sources of that crisis lie in historical, social, economic, and political contexts of Arab society in Israel. The book’s premise is that the dynamic nature of local government is influenced both by the structure of governance and the status of the Arab population in Israel, as well as by the local political culture. Accordingly, the most efficient approach to studying the subject is a comprehensive examination of the policy of the central government, while studying the behavior patterns of the local governments.
The eight papers that appear in this volume are the outcome of the work of scholars who participated in a discussion group that met at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute in 2007–2008 to consider the operation of Arab local governments. They are all in agreement that the crisis is worsening as a result of the combined influence of external and internal factors. These factors block the development of Arab local governments and impede the improvement of their functioning. Many of the papers highlight the role of various internal obstacles in generating and maintaining the crisis. The concluding paper is a summary of sorts that reviews all the challenges facing local Arab government and proposes a solution that is a partial answer to the problem of the relations between Arab citizens of Israel and the state.