In few months, Israel will hold new elections for the Knesset, The Parliament, and with a growing and more involving Arab/Druze and Bedouin populations, the expectations are that they will have politically a matching role to their demographic percentage which is about 20% of the citizens of the State.
Years ago and throughout different periods, I came across people who happened to be Arab citizens of the State of Israel. The original Arab population, including the Bedouins and the Druze in Israel consists of those that did not leave towns and cities in 1948 after the State of Israel declared its independence and the first Arab Israeli war that followed.
My interaction with Israeli Arabs first took place when I went to a boarding school in Jerusalem by the name of St.George – the actual boarding House was few miles away at the YMCA in Ramallah -the temporary capital of the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas- we had students from the so called inside the Green line- an artificial line that separates the State of Israel from the West Bank according to the **1949 Armistice lines established between Israel and its neighbors (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria).
The students from Israel were Israeli citizens, the rest of us were, as myself, Unidentified- Gaza, or Jordanians- mainly from the West Bank. The friends and colleagues from Israel always felt torn apart between their citizenship and residence to their State and their historic belonging to the Palestinian people in the historic pre 1948 League of Nations British mandated Palestine.
I personally would have advised otherwise; you can be a German, or Italian or Egyptian or a Palestinian Israeli and such. Those students always felt- while with Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza the urge and the need to show that they are part of the overall so-called Palestinian struggle to gain independence.
Years later while living in Cairo-Egypt, attending the law school at Cairo University after the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel in 1979 following the historic visit to Jerusalem by the late Egyptian president Anwar Al-Sadat, I came across tourists from all over the world and among them were tourists from Israel that some happened to be Arabs.
On one occasion, couple of Israeli Arabs confided to me that they prefer to live under Israeli rule rather than to go back under Palestinian or Arab rule. These two friends said and I quote” we prefer to live in hell under Israel rather than to live in paradise under the Arabs” end of quote. I was not shocked, knowing the political systems in the Arab countries and in Israel. But I was pleased that they felt comfortable enough to share such information and sentiments. They are now citizens of the State of Israel, their job is to be smart and productive citizens, while continuing to ask for equality as long as they use peaceful means.
The Arabs in Israel live well in their homes and towns, they attend universities and they have representation in the parliament, the Knesset. Still have not reached the top political positions but this is for now understandable and things will change for them as long as they act on the fact that they are citizens of Israel and their loyalty should go to the State that they bear its’ citizenship.
The political and social systems in Israel will develop as the peace process with the neighboring Arab countries gains solid ground and once there are peace treaties and normalization of relations among all countries in the new Middle East. The Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip will have a State; however, the Israeli Arabs must look at the new State as a neighboring State with special ties. They know that they do not want to move there and they know that they want to continue to be part of the State of Israel. Israel can, as the debate goes on right now, has its identity as a Jewish State and in the same time move to ensure a multi-ethnic society that allows qualified people to be elected and govern regardless of their ethnicity or religion. The Arabs in Israel will use their relations and ties to both Israel and Palestine to be one of the bridges that cross the spectrum between Israel and the Arab countries.
* Israel population consists mainly of Jewish and Arabs. The definition of Arab population in Israel relates to both Muslims and Christians. There are other groups such as the Bedouins and the Druze. The Arabs are exempt from serving in the Military, the Druze and the Bedouins are active members of the State of Israel Defense Forces. The demographics according to the CIA-The World Factbook, total population is 7,233,701 divided as follows: Jewish 76.4%, Muslim 16%, Arab Christians 1.7%, other Christian 0.4%, Druze 1.6%, unspecified 3.9% (2004)
**Source from Wikipedia
Picture Courtesy: The Times of Israel