"There is no reason why young Druze men who serve in the army's most elite units should face any restrictions while searching for a job upon their discharge," Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Tuesday during a meeting with Druze and Circassian leaders in the northern village of Julis.
"Even today this problem is more conscious-oriented than technical," he said.
Dr Akram Hasson, the mayor of Ir Hacarmel (Carmel City), consisting of the Druze villages Daliat al-Carmel and Usfiya, told Olmert "this is the time to even give the Druze preference over the Jews in order to show that loyalty pays off."
He added that "there cannot be a situation in which Arab organizations such as Adalah protect the rights of the Druze, and this is what is currently happening."
'No room for free land'
The prime minister said in response that "a change is needed and that is why I'm here."
Olmert continued to say that in the last few years his government has been working to narrow the gaps between the Jewish and Druze sectors principally in the field of employment, education and housing.
In response to a request by Druze leaders to allot lands to discharged Druze soldiers, Olmert said that "there is room to act on allotting these lands in light of the tribal-traditional character of (the Druze). However, there is no room for free land or favoritism over the Jewish sector."
Druze spiritual leader Sheikh Muafek Tarif said during the meeting "we are only at the beginning of the process of narrowing the gaps."
The Druze and Circassian leaders also discussed a recent study indicating that more than 94% of Druze youngsters classify themselves as "Druze-Israelis" in the religious and national context. The National Resilience Survey, which was conducted by Tel Aviv University, included 750 Muslim and Christian respondents.
According to the poll, Israeli Muslims are far less patriotic, with 43% referring to themselves as "Palestinian-Arabs"; only 15% defined themselves as "Arab-Israelis" and four percent of those surveyed said they considered themselves "Muslim-Israelis".
Among the Christian respondents, 24% said they defined themselves as "Arab-Palestinians", 24% referred to themselves as "Arab-Israelis" and an equal number of respondents said they considered themselves "Christian-Israelis".