The meeting taking place Monday between President Reuven Rivlin and the ever-widening circle of Collective Impact was scheduled before the enactment of the Nation State Law, and should not be regarded as a step to calm disgruntled Arabs.
For some years now, the country’s presidents have initiated programs to integrate educated Arabs into non-menial employment in the country’s workforce.
Special Knesset committees were formed to monitor and report on progress, and various organizations were established to encourage Israeli companies to give equal consideration to qualified Arabs.
President Moshe Katsav was the first president to host an Iftar dinner for Muslim religious and lay leaders. President Shimon Peres continued the annual Iftar tradition, as has President Reuven Rivlin. But Peres and Rivlin took the issue of Arab integration a step further.
In 2011, Peres hosted a meeting in Tel Aviv with presidents and CEOs of leading high tech companies. The outcome was the establishment of Maantech, which through its web-based portal amassed and recruited academically qualified Arabs and integrated them into Israel’s burgeoning high tech industry.
Even before that, the late Dov Lautman, the founder of Delta, the textile company that became a giant manufacturer of undergarments, counted a high ratio of workers from all of Israel’s minorities among its hundreds of employees. All received the same rights and privileges as the company’s Jewish employees. But this was low-tech, not high-tech. In the 1980s, as head of the Israel Manufacturers Association, Lautman encouraged entrepreneurship amongst academically educated Arabs. In 2008, he was also in the forefront of Kav Mashve which found jobs for Arab university graduates in Israeli companies and provided them with the training they needed to become fully integrated.
Two years after Peres had his initial meting with the high-tech CEOs, with whom he continued to remain in contact, Creative Impact Israel was founded with the similar aim of integrating qualified Arabs into Israeli high tech companies. Together with Rivlin, Collective Impact in 2015 launched a Jewish-Arab mentoring project headed by top level businessmen from both sectors of the population.
Additionally, there is an ongoing relationship between Collective Impact and Rivlin’s own Israel Hope project for integration of minorities. The mentors and mentees meet monthly to discuss problems and find solutions. In addition to this, Rivlin has expanded his annual Iftar banquet to include both Jewish and Arab CEOs so that they can network. He also invites Arab local council heads in order to keep up the momentum of social and business integration.
Monday’s meeting will take place in the Negev in the course of the Annual Conference of Collective Impact. CEOs of companies involved will present reports on the number of Arabs employed, the extent of their integration, their individual contributions to the company’s success and by extension to Israel’s economy.
Other participants will include Avi Cohen, director general of the Ministry for Social Equality; Mazen Gnaim, chairman of the Forum of Arab Mayors and Mayor of Sakhnin; Salim Abu Rabiya, head of the Kaseifa Local Council; Ilan Birnfeld, chairman Deloitte Israel; Harel Haikin, CEO of Coca Cola Israel; Shelly Landsman, Microsoft Israel General Manager; Eyal Malis, CEO Tnuva; and Yaniv Shirazi, CEO Strauss Water, along with many other leading Israeli industrialists.