Israeli Arabs blast Pence's speech, Arab MKs' protest
While VP Pence's speech raised the expected furor among Israeli Arabs, the protest staged by Joint List MKs was also criticized; Abed of Qalansawe: 'They should resign, rip mask off façade of democracy in racist Israel'; Mahmoud of east Jerusalem: 'We are still suffering, but never see the Arab MKs coming around.'
Before Pence could begin his speech, he was interrupted by the Arab members of Knesset, who stormed into the room holding protest signs in Arabic and English saying, "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine."
The Arab parliamentarians, who initially said they would boycott the speech, started booing at Pence, but their jeers were overwhelmed by the other lawmakers, who clapped loudly to mask their protest.
Within seconds, Knesset ushers pounced on the Arab MKs and removed them from the plenum. Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein announced the rebellious lawmakers were banned from attending the remainder of the session.
Pence responded to the fracas by saying with a smile, "It is deeply humbling for me to stand before this vibrant democracy."
"The vice president's speech showed he was here to send a clear message of support to the racist Israeli government," said Abed Odeh of Qalansawe. "It will not change our opposition to President (Donald) Trump's statement recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital. The speech will only embolden us."
On the Joint List members' protest, Odeh opined, "I think they should resign from the Knesset because their influence there is nil. Some are there due to their personal interests. Even if they wanted to act for the betterment of Arab society, they'll be hard pressed to do so because of (Israel's) racist government.
"That's why the best thing for them—and for the Arab citizens—would be to resign, so as to rip the mask off the façade of democracy in this racist country," he said.
"We saw today that Knesset security guards would not allow them to express their opinion even though it is their right. If the Israeli government intends to deprive them of that right, there's no need for them to be in the Knesset. The state should decide—either we're its citizens or its enemies. Jerusalem is under occupation, and it needs men to liberate it, not papers," Odeh added.
Ala Agbaria, a media strategist and consultant from Umm al-Fahm, said, "Pence's speech was predictable and carried a clear agenda. It was a religious, messianic speech. He was here supporting an issue the prime minister has championed throughout his term—the 'Iranian threat.'
"This point marks a significant shift in Israelis' perception of (Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's) investigations. He'll use it as a trump card—'the US is on our side'—to consolidate his first objective of appearing irreplaceable.
"Pence mentioned he was proud of Jerusalem, the eternal capital of Israel, more than six times. That's a dangerous move in the Israeli-Palestinian political roadmap."
Commenting on the Arab MKs' protest, Agbaria said, "The Arab MKs wrote a good script but their direction lacked strategy. Their behavior was highly damaging to the image of Arab and Palestinian society. It's harmful and will not serve their interests, but it will serve the claim that Israel is a democratic country.
"The MKs need to realize how to use the political game to their benefit. Their intentions are clear, but they should not have painted themselves into this corner, because we need these external relationships that serve Arab and Palestinian society, for now. They need to start thinking outside the box. The method of screaming and causing a ruckus is no longer helpful. We need to start looking for other ways to engender real discourse."
Sheikh Walid Frej of Kafr Qasim voiced his own opinion, saying, "We were hoping the US would remain an impartial mediator and go to any length to jumpstart the peace process. To our great dismay, the vice president announced the death of the peace process and the death of the Palestinian people's dream of a state with east Jerusalem as its capital.
"The speech showed the US intends to carry on declaring Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and make its intentions of moving the US Embassy there known. The US has ceased acting as a mediating partner in the peace process. The entire region may devolve into the abyss due to the closure of the route to peace. Much blood will be spilled and many people will suffer, sadly.
"The protest measures undertaken by the Arab MKs mirrored all of the Arab countries—and the Muslim world in general—and their opposition to all of the American measures. The MKs voiced to the American leadership the anger of the entire Arab and Muslim world."
Mahmoud of east Jerusalem, meanwhile, believed that "The vice president and the Israeli government must understand that we and only we will decide on the Jerusalem issue. Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine. We will take to the streets and continue the struggle to our deaths, no matter the cost, so long as we preserve Jerusalem and the Al Aqsa Mosque. The US is making a fool of itself.
"I saw the Arab MKs' protest. It's a good enough step, but it isn't enough. We are still suffering and seeing very serious things on the ground. What we never see is Arab MKs coming to us to see what's been going on. They should stop putting on a show at our expense."
Rim Masarwa of Wadi Ara concluded, "I'm proud of the Joint List Arab MKs' stance and disappointed with the Arab MKs of other parties who remained silent. The List spoke on behalf of (Israel's) Arab citizens and the entire Arab world. It's a strong message to the vice president, who's merely putting on airs."