A fierce argument broke out between Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman and Balad leader, Knesset Member Jamal Zahalka, on Sunday during a Knesset's Education Committee meeting regarding the integration of Israeli Arabs in National Service (Sherut Leumi).
The meeting addressed, among other issues, the incitement against those who choose to volunteer, and their families. The debates heated when Lieberman began speaking against the Israeli Arab's leadership, saying they are the ones instigating the incitement.
Lieberman was supposedly speaking against a comment made by Zahalka about four months ago, during a conference protesting the government initiative to draft the sector's youth to the service, in which he said, "Anyone who chooses to volunteer to the National Service will be considered (by the Israeli Arab society) a leper and the Arab society will have nothing to do with them."
Yisrael Beiteinu's chairman continued to scorn the Education Ministry next, slamming its decision to cut back on National Service funding: "This new policy has made it an active party in the (Higher Arab) Monitoring Committee's efforts against the service, both in the Arab sector and among the Orthodox… this is suicide."
War of Words
MK Jamal Zahalka tried to comment on Lieberman's statements several times, but the latter kept on interrupting him. Zahalka tries to shut Lieberman up, calling him "a fascist"- a comment which made Lieberman accuse Zahalka of cooperating with terror operatives.
Lieberman, Zahalka told Ynet, was using the meeting as another opportunity to lash out at the Arab sector's representatives: "This is the first time he was ever in favor of giving funding to Arabs… he just saw an opportunity to score some cheap popularity points by offending Arab MKs.
"He couldn't care less about the National Service," added Zahalka, "he just came here to incite others. All he cares about in harming Arab MKs."
The Israeli Arab leadership, he continued, is not trying to discourage joining the National Service, but rather to prevent the ostracizing of those who choose to volunteer.
"We have nothing against them, we just don't want them to pay this price…National Service is just another way to control the Arab citizens and Lieberman's crusade doesn't take into account the Arab MKs stand on the matter.
The Knesset's Education Committee ended its meeting by voting in MK Zevulun Orlev's (National Religious Party) initiative to encourage Arab youth to volunteer to the National Service, "as an expression of their integration into Israeli society."
Sharon Roffe-Ofir contributed to this report