"We've made many mistakes and neglected many vital needs that I know were important to your community," Prime Minster Ehud Olmert told members of Israel's Druze sector Thursday evening during a ceremony held in their honor.
"I've come here to tell you that I am taking on the responsibility to rectify the mistakes of the past; and there is much to rectify," the PM said during the ceremony, which was conducted at the tomb of Jethro the prophet near Tiberias in the framework of Israel's 60th anniversary celebrations.
The speeches delivered at the event addressed the Druze sector's status in Israeli society and the government's discriminating policy toward the community.
"It is high time that Israel reward the Druze community and treat its members as equal citizens," Deputy Foreign Minister Majalli Whbee told the thousands on hand.
The ceremony included an air show by a fleet of F-16ls, one of which was piloted by a Druze. In addition, some 1,500 members of Druze youth organizations held a march in the area and torches were lit by representatives of the sector.
The sector's spiritual leader, Sheikh Muwaffak Tarif, said in his speech that the members of the Druze community "will continue to proudly wave the Israeli flag in one hand, but continue to carry the banner of our struggle in the other".
Many Druze boycotted the event in protest of the State's plans to expropriate 2,000 dunams of land from their community on the east Carmel Mountains. Addressing the matter, Olmert said "I will personally supervise over the decisions that are made on the issues that are concerning you. I am aware of the strong connection the Druze have to their land and I promise that everything will be conducted after negotiations and with sensitivity."
The prime minister promised to allocate $130 million toward advancing the Druze community.