Avigdor Lieberman is pursuing the idea of transferring part of Israel's Arabs to the Palestinian state, if and when it is established. To those who attack him he responds, "Suddenly they are an integral part of the State of Israel. Suddenly Herzl is their national hero, 'Hatikva' is the hit, and Ahmad Tibi and his friends really have a yearning Jewish soul."
Well, this issue has two aspects: One is delusional – Lieberman's plan, and the other is very serious – the process of integration of Israel's Arabs into the State's life.
Israel's Arabs have been in a situation of discrimination and deprivation for many years. It's not a scoop or an unknown thing, and many documents which have been written about it confirm the current state of affairs and recommend ways of action. We lag far behind the Jews in community development, in employment opportunities, in education, and in fact in every parameter of normal human life in terms of the Western world.
The situation described here has a long history, and this is not the place to discuss and review it. It's no use crying over spilt milk, but we must look into how to change the grim reality. The change is not only a necessity for the minority population, but is a matter of importance to the entire State of Israel: Twenty percent of the population which does not earn a proper living is a burden on the Jewish public, and that must be changed in favor of everyone.
But before I turn to the government institutions, which are naturally manned mainly by Jews, I would like to turn to the Israeli Arab public. Why are we surprised at such Avigdor Liebermans, who want to transfer us to the Palestinian state? The Jews are rightfully asking: "Why do you want to stay here, with all your expressions of hatred and opposition towards the State? You are not Israelis at all; you are 'Palestinians.' That's how you define yourselves, and as such you should be citizens of the State of Palestine."
We must do our part in intergation processWe ourselves are creating the "ammunition" for Lieberman and his partners. And suddenly, at the moment of truth, we are hanging on to our Israeli citizenship.
We must decide who we are. I suggest that those of us who see themselves as citizens of the State of Israel – the Jewish state, where we are (what can we do) a minority – start acting like citizens. This means that our leadership will take care of us, Israel's Arabs; that it will change the style from a discourse of hatred to talking at eye level, like cultivated citizens; and that we, the entire Arab public, will get ourselves a leadership which promotes our civil integration. We should also define ourselves as "Israel's Arab citizens," because that should be our first identifying mark, just like the Jews of the United States are first and foremost US citizens and only then affiliated (not always) with the State of Israel.
The civil integration does not mean that we're losing our historic and national identity. We are an Arab public whose heritage is different from the Jewish heritage, and Herzl, "Hatikva" and the renewed Jewish nationality are not ours. Nonetheless, as part of a democratic Jewish state we should integrate as equals among equals, and that is not happening yet. The government institutions still have a long way to go in order to help us have equal rights and integrate, the world of business must open its doors to us, and so on.
We will not move to the Palestinian Authority, but here, in the State of Israel, we must do our part in the integration process.