The Ministry of Finance concealed information regarding the budgets allocated for the implementation of government decisions in 2022. A week before the legal hearing, the ministry transferred partial information to the Mossawa Center.
Today (Monday), May 29, 2023, the District Court in Jerusalem will hear the appeal of the Mossawa Center against the Ministry of Finance for concealing information regarding the implementation of government decisions for the development of Palestinian Arab communities, namely Government Decision 550 (GD-550). The hearing will take place after a prolonged legal battle that lasted about a year, during which the Ministry of Finance refused to provide the data on budgetary regulations intended for the implementation of the government's decision. The Mossawa Center reached out to the Ministry of Finance several times in 2022, requesting to receive the budgetary information. The Ministry of Finance ignored and evaded the requests. After several months of legal proceedings, the Mossawa Center filed an appeal under the Freedom of Information Actwith attorney Marianne Abi Nadar.
A week before the scheduled hearing today, the Ministry of Finance submitted a file that included some of the requested information and requested the cancellation of the court hearing. Economist Mohammed Abu Leil at the Mossawa Center examined the file where he found that the Ministry of Finance did not transfer the relevant budgetary regulations from some ministries, including the Ministry of Education, which was supposed to receive a significant portion of the state budget. The prosecution requested the cancellation of the court hearing, arguing that the hearing was no longer necessary after the data had been provided. The Mossawa Center informed the court that the data was incomplete and requested the full data be provided. The court acceded to the Mossawa Center's request and will hold the hearing today.
"It took the Ministry of Finance almost a year to transfer the data, which should have been transparent to the public. A week before the hearing, the prosecution provides part of the data and requests the cancellation of the hearing. We will demand to receive all the data for the year 2022, and soon we will request the budgetary regulations for the years 2023-2024,” stated attorney Marianne Abi Nadar.
GD-550, along with subsequent government decisions that followed, were supposed to assist in closing some of the longstanding gaps and discrimination against Palestinian Arab society. The decision was intended to allocate 6 billion shekels ($1.6B) from the state budget of 484 billion shekels ($130B) for the year 2023. However, an analysis conducted by the Mossawa Center revealed that the budget transferred by the Knesset Finance Committee to various ministries was smaller than what was stipulated in the government decision. All attempts to obtain the different budgetary regulations were met with delays by the Ministry of Finance.
Nibal Ardaat, Legal Advocacy Coordinator at the Mossawa Center, stated, "The delay in implementing government decisions is familiar to us from previous government decisions. Despite the government's supposed transparency and the obligation to provide the requested information to Palestinian Arab authorities, in practice, we encounter delays in transferring the information and distortion of facts. On the one hand, they claim to be working to close the gaps, but on the other we discover that the budgets allocated to closing the gaps in Palestinian Arab communities either do not arrive or are transferred with significant delays, which deepens the disparities."