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President Rivlin Launches Cooperation Project with Arab Employment Initiative

“The mission to build a bridge, and a basis for a sense of cooperation between the Jewish and Arab communities, is for me a humanitarian, Jewish, Zionist, and national mission of the very highest priority.”

President Rivlin

Following on from his meeting on Thursday with the Arab heads of regional councils, President Reuven Rivlin on Sunday launched a new cooperation project between the President’s Office and the Collective Impact initiative, which works to further the level of employment in Israel’s Arabic society.

During the meeting, held at the President’s Residence with the participation of CEOs and employers involved with the initiative, the President was presented with an range of possibilities and ways to deal with the obstacles and challenges in the integration of the Arab population into the private sector.

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In addition, the President was presented with a comprehensive study on the issue, which included interviews with CEOs, senior managers, and human resource professionals from around fifty of Israel’s leading companies, including; The Strauss Group; Amdocs; Fattal; Check Point; Herzog Fox Neeman; Shikun & Binui; Teva; HP; Migdal; Matrix; and others.

Within the framework of the cooperation project with the President’s Office, the President will establish a quarterly business leadership forum of managers from companies involved in the project, which will assist the professional bodies address the issues which arise while dealing with the issue of integration, and will be on hand throughout the process of integrating the Arab population in various positions with the participating companies. Participating in the event at the President’s Residence was Ofra Strauss, Chairwoman of the Strauss Group, Ilan Birnfeld, CEO of Deloitte, Shai Levy, CEO of Amdocs, Imad Telhami, CEO of Babcom.

The President addressed the attendees and said, “The Arab community of the State of Israel has for a while now, not been a minority. The Arab public, with all its diversity, today makes up more than 20 percent of the general population, and more than a quarter of the children in first grade. One may like it, one may fear it, but one cannot ignore it. This is a community, part and parcel of this land, for whom this land is their homeland. It is a community with a cultural, religious, ethnic, and national identity. Sadly, too few Israeli Jews are familiar with the Arab society, beyond assumptions of stereotype.

“Therefore, there exists a significant gap, created over the years, between the two societies which live side by side, together – yet blind to one another. Over this divide, this gap, we must build a bridge, step by step. The mission to build a bridge, and a basis for a sense of cooperation between the Jewish and Arab communities, is for me a humanitarian, Jewish, Zionist, and national mission of the very highest priority. It is a social and economic challenge which is incumbent upon us, and which is one of the most essential keys to our lives here, for our future, and the future of our children. My friends, you and I are here today, because we are utterly convinced that we must steer the boat, and that we must do it together. The condition for which – to educate and work together – is trust.

“Without partnership, rooted in mutual respect and understanding, – there will be no trust. Without mutual commitment and a guarantee by both sides to the future and fate of Israeli society and the State of Israel – there will be no trust. Without equality, in the provision of resources and infrastructure, opportunities and possibilities – there will be no trust.

“The path upon which we are beginning today, as I believe and hope, will not only make a significant contribution to the rehabilitation and the strengthening of the vital trust between the sides, but will also give them hope. Hope for a future in which the Israeli market will know how to grant the young man from Rahat, and the young lady from Umm Al-Fahm, the ‘Israeli dream’. You are here today, because you know that the integration of the Arab population in the employment market is not limited to the integration of Arab workers on factory production lines. Instead, it is true integration, whose intention is integration in appropriate employment, in academia, in the fields of leadership, development and management.

“Therefore, your presence here today, directors of the largest companies, is an extremely important statement. The employment market is the best measure of our ability to live together, and to be a bridge of hope for Israel, and the Middle East. At the end of the day, the private sector is the engine that leads the economy; and you lead that engine. Your recognition of the issue, will secure the future of the market, and of society.”

Chairwoman of the Strauss Group, Ofra Strauss, said, “The commercial viability of diverse employment is not an issue from which we should hide. Where commercial viability connects with national values and objectives, it is a wake-up call for us all. We must not ignore the opportunity, we must not ignore the obligation. The state, the third sector, and the employers can and must join hands in order to improve the employment situation in Arab society. We have to work for the integration of the Arab community into the employment market in accordance with the general employment rates. Especially now, it is important that the message will emanate from here, from this house, that it is proper and correct to enact a change, and we are here in order to ensure this happens. I hope we will be able to return to the President in the coming years, with statistics and figures that show we are on the road to success.”

Zvika Ziv, Chairman of the Collective Impact steering committee said, “The employment of the Arab population in the private sector is a condition for economic growth of the markets, and a must for commercial companies. We are talking about a broad, three-sector partnership which will ensure all the assistance that the employers will need.”

Chairman of ‘Youth Team’ and member of the steering committee, Dr. Samir Qasem, said, “Our meeting here today, seeks seriously to improve the situation, to realize the vision of an equal society, which grants a fitting place to each and every member of society, and I am sure we will succeed in this.”



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