For years, leaders of the Arab minority in Israel had been priding themselves on being in favor of a Palestinian state and in favor of peace between Israel and the Palestinians. However, scrutinizing these statements shows the opposite. The Arab Israeli leadership’s various branches in fact work against the Palestinian aspirations for independence. This leadership has no interest in seeing a Palestinian state established.
This was clear upon the second Intifada’s outbreak, precisely a decade ago, when the Arab Israeli leadership – from the Islamic Movement and from the Left – sent its activists to the streets in a bid to rebel against the State of Israel. As a result, ever since then, Israel’s public opinion in respect to an agreement has toughened. Israelis may be able to agree to disengage from the territories, yet if an Arab state will emerge within Israel itself, where exactly will they go?
Things only got worse and more complicated ever since then, reaching the point where Mahmoud Abbas, in one of his most well-known speeches, reprimanded Arab Israelis, wondering who ever asked for their help during the Intifada. Meanwhile, Arab Knesset members are adopting a more radical approach than the Palestinians in respect to Israel and the future of negotiations.
For example, when PLO Secretary General Yasser Abed Rabbo hinted the other day that his group would be willing to recognize Israel’s Jewish identity under certain conditions, Balad MK Zahalka quickly reprimanded him, and even called for his dismissal, no less.
Curbing any progress
While some Palestinian leaders are willing to discuss what is known as the “right of return,” Arab Israeli Knesset members are unwilling to even hear about such possibility. They are more inflexible than the Palestinians, thereby curbing any progress towards a Palestinian state.
Leaders of Israel’s Arab minority did not hesitate to laud Gaddafi in Tripoli or Assad in Damascus – two figures who are not quite fans of an independent Palestinian state. The Islamic Movement’s northern branch in Israel is actually closer to Hamas – the enemy of peace – than to the Palestinian Authority. The Balad party, premised on Azmi Bishara’s school of thought, despises the Palestinian Authority because of the deals it signed with Israel; it is doubtful whether Balad even recognizes the PA.
This raises the following question: Why is Israel’s Arab leadership more radical than the PA’s leadership?
No longer ‘bridge to peace’
This question has two surprising answers. First, the powerful claims prevalent in the Arab world towards Arab Israelis, who seemingly showed betrayal and surrendered to the Jews, require Israeli Arabs to adopt an increasingly more provocative approach towards their own country, Israel. They must prove that they are not treacherous in respect to the Arab and Palestinian issue, but rather, more nationalistic.
And so, paradoxically, the so-called “Arabs of 1948” will forever remain trapped in the scathing Arab accusations against them. These accusations define them, and instead of shaking them off they dig in deeper. The Palestinians don’t need to prove anything, while Arab Israelis do.
The second answer is as follows: Where exactly will tens of thousands of settlers be moved to should the West Bank be evacuated? To the Galilee and the Negev; that is, to Arab population centers in Israel, at the Arabs’ expense.
We can now see that Arab Israelis and the Palestinians hold opposite interests in respect to an Israeli-Palestinian agreement. The success of the Palestinians may prove to be disastrous for Arab Israelis. The time has come to expose – both to Israel’s leaders and to the Palestinian Authority – the role played by those who once upon a time were referred to as a “bridge to peace.”
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