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Outcasts. MK Zoabi (L) and Zahalka Photo: Gil Yohanan
Outcasts. MK Zoabi (L) and Zahalka Photo: Gil Yohanan
 
 

No Arabs, no united bloc

Op-ed: Moderate parties' refusal to form political alliance with Arab factions a worrying trend bordering on racism

Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu
Published: 01.15.13, 20:04 / Israel Opinion

The leaders of the Left-Center parties discussed the possibility of forming a united bloc against Netanyahu ahead the elections to promote their key goals – a peace agreement with the Palestinians and an economic policy that will narrow the gaps in society. These goals are also supported by Hadash, Balad and United Arab List-Ta'al, but the Jewish parties are not even considering the possibility of cooperating with them.

 

Yachimovich and Livni are refusing to discuss the possibility of a political partnership with elected Arab officials, and Lapid has made it clear that he thinks the idea is ridiculous. The leaders of the moderate Jewish public prefer to sit in the opposition or join a dangerous rightist collation - as long as there are no Arabs.

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The days of the second Rabin government, during which the Arab parties backed the coalition from the outside and obtained significant achievements on behalf of the Arab public – particularly with regards to the development of infrastructure – seem very far away.

 

Undoubtedly, the long-term investment in the delegitimization of the Arab parties as partners in a political alliance are bearing fruit. Even the moderate, liberal, social, peace-seeking public has internalized the message and – like its leaders – truly believes that Arab MKs are dangerous traitors who are detached from their public and deal solely with the occupation issue. Polls show that a large majority of the Jewish public – close to 70% - believe that even socioeconomic decisions require a strictly Jewish majority.

 

This deterioration in the attitude of the Jewish public toward the Arab minority and its elected officials has also manifested itself in violence in the public sphere against Arab lawmakers: MK Hanin Zoabi was attacked violently by extreme right-wing activists at the Supreme Court; at Jerusalem's Teddy Stadium fans yell out "Ahmad Tibi is dead" without interruption; Tibi himself was spat on at Bar-Ilan University; there are attempts to disqualify Arab parties before every election; and young Arabs are attacked in Jerusalem only because they are Arab – and the leaders of the country remain silent.

 

The legitimacy of some of the Arab lawmakers' activities can be called into question, and in no way are they immune to criticism. But an in-depth examination of their parliamentary activity during the 18th Knesset completely refutes the claim that they do not deal with socioeconomic issues that concern the Arab public.

 

The de-legitimization campaign reached new lows during the last Knesset: This is not about political alliances anymore. Some civil servants treat Arab MKs as outcasts – sometimes because they are instructed to do so by their ministers. One example of this is Yisrael-Beiteinu's announcement that the ministries headed by its members would stop cooperating with a parliamentary inquiry commission examining the employment of Arabs in the public sector. Why? Because the commission is headed by an elected Arab official.

 

An Arab party would find it difficult to join a government that does not declare a peace agreement as one of its goals, but supporting from the outside is an option. Either way, the most important issue is that the Left-Center parties do not want a political alliance with the Arab parties, despite the fact that they have a common agenda. This is a worrying trend that borders on racism and mainly casts a large shadow over the prospect of a better future for all of Israel's citizens.

 

Amnon Be'eri-Sulitzeanu is a co-executive director of the Abraham Fund Initiatives, working to promote coexistence and equality among Israel's Jewish and Arab citizens

 

 

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