There was no way of accommodating the demands of Israeli-Arabs, short of the destruction of Israel
and its replacement with an Arab state, a senior Israeli academic told a stormy session of the Herzliya Conference Monday, held to discuss the Arab minority in Israel.
Dr. Dan Schueftan, deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, said a document recently released by Israeli- Arab leaders called for "nothing short of the destruction of Jewish national state."
Schueftan said the consensus position of Israeli -Arabs, as reflected in the document "The future vision of Palestinian Arabs in Israel,' was that Israel should be "replaced with a bi-national state, alongside a mechanism to turn it into an Arab state, adding: "Otherwise, we (Israelis) are automatically not legitimate (in their eyes)." The document was published by the Higher Monitoring Committee for the Arab Population in Israel, a forum of Israeli-Arab leaders.
Schueftan said: "The signal is that even if inequality is bridged, it won't solve the problem. The lack of legitimacy of the national Jewish state is the source of the problem."
The recent Lebanon war also showed that a majority of Israeli-Arabs thought "every enemy of State of Israel should at least be understood," Schueftan emphasized. He added that the document released by the Higher Monitoring Committee said "the Jews rose as a colonialist phenomenon… who expelled… butchered… and the Palestinians have only fought for peace."
"This is a reality for which there is no fix. The Palestinian national minority in Israel has a consensus view demanding recognition by the Jews of their exclusive guilt and their own lack of legitimacy, as well as an agreement to destroy the national Jewish project," Schueftan argued . He said that Israeli-Arab leaders who voiced such views were accurately representing the views of the wider Arab public.
"There are problems, and it won't be OK ," Schueftan said, adding: "It's not leading to violent confrontation… But in the national field, the issue getting more severe… The Arabs don't plan to integrate themselves into the Jewish national state. The Jews won't commit national suicide. Both will continue to stick to the very sad status quo."
Schueftan's grim assessment was challenged by former Knesset Member Eti Livni. "We went out to Arab villages in the Galilee and discussed the drawing up of a constitution. When Israeli -Arab intellectuals or spokespersons were not there, most of the public said they were willing to live in Jewish democratic state."
She cited a recent poll showing that over half of Israeli - Arabs desired to live in "an improved ethnic democracy, meaning a Jewish state with improved rights for the Arab public."
Aida Toma-Suleiman, a member of the Higher Monitoring Committee, contradicted Livni's claim, and asserted that Arab leaders were representative of the Arab public at large.
Responding to Schueftan, Toma-Suleiman said the document in question "did not talk about Jews, but Israeli governments. We know how to distinguish between a political entity and a nation.
"A Jew born in the US, who never visited here, will have more rights and privileges than me, who was born here, like my father and grandfather. This can't be," Toma-Suleiman said. "We were and are against occupation, and we are for the fight for democracy," she added.
"We do want to extend a hand to Jewish public, and share our vision of how the state will look like…Without recognizing the general national rights of Arabs, we won't live in a democracy," she said.
Toma-Suleiman dismissed Livni's report on the willingness of the general Israeli-Arab public to live in a Jewish state. "Jewish elites shouldn't speak to the general Arab public, but Jewish and Arab elites should talk to each other," she said.
"The Arab population in the State of Israel is offering a different alternative. It's a different future with another vision," Toma-Suleiman added.