Another Ticking Time Bomb
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Jerusalem Post Int'l Edition
July 13, 2001
Arab MK Azmi Bishara succeeded, as intended, in inflicting a severe case of apoplexy on the Israeli public with his recent trip to Syria. In the presence of Hizbullah leader Hassan Nassralah, whose Hizbullah militia continues to hold incommunicado four Israelis, and Hamas sponsors of suicide bombers, Bishara called for the "entire Arab world to unite against the warmongering Sharon government.’’
Bishara’s remarks were only marginally more inflammatory than those of many other Arab MKs in the recent past. Last November, MK Mohammed Barakeh called on Israeli Arabs to "participate’’ in the Palestinian intifada, again in the presence of Hamas representatives and Tanzim leader Marwan Barghouti. His fellow MK Taleb a-Sanaa suggests a Nobel Peace Prize for Hizbullah leader Nasrallah for driving Israel from Lebanon. Three years ago a delegation of Arab MKs visited Hafez Assad in Damascus, where they wished him victory in any future military confrontations and assured Palestinian refugees that they would one day return to their ancestral lands.
No other democracy would pay a parliamentarian’s salary to those preaching unification of all forces seeking its destruction. For far less was Meir Kahane’s Kach party banned.
But the Arab MKs are a symptom, rather than the cause, of a far greater threat to Israel’s future: the growing irredentism of Israeli Arabs. When Arab politicians vie with one another to express their hatred of Israel, they reflect the sentiments of their voters. As Bishara said, "I am a Palestinian patriot, not an Israeli patriot,’’ and that is how his constituents view themselves as well. Nearly 70% of Israeli Arabs identify as Palestinians, and an almost equal number say they would support the Palestinians in the event of full-scale war.
In Spring 2000, Arab students rioted at both Haifa University and the Hebrew University, chanting "Death to the Jews’’ and desecrating Israeli flags. At graduation ceremonies in Israeli Arab schools, the playing of the Palestinian national anthem is becoming increasingly common, as is the presence of Palestinian Authority representatives.
A hostile Israeli Arab population increases the terrorist and military threat to Israel. Northern District police commander Alik Ron warned more than a year ago of increasing traffic of arms from PA-controlled areas to Israeli Arabs. Police suspect the possible involvement of Arabs from Abu Ghoush, a village considered friendly since the 1948 War of Independence, in the recent planting of a large explosive device on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem Highway.
The presence of large PA armed forces near Israel’s major populations centers threatens the rapid mobilization of forces upon which Israeli defense doctrine has always depended. A hostile Israeli Arab population only heightens the danger, as the closure of the vital Wadi Ari highway in the Lower Galilee during two days of rioting in the Israeli Arab town of Umm-el-Fahm last October shows.
Israeli Arabs already constitute 20% of the population (though a smaller percentage of voters), and that percentage is growing rapidly due to a birthrate over twice as high as the Jewish birthrate. No democracy can disenfranchise 20% of its population, which would be the result of banning the various Arab parties that today compete in expressions of scorn for Israel.
But neither can any democracy afford to have those who identify with its enemies holding the balance of power on vital security issues. Even at Israeli Arab’s present level of 15% of the voters, a Jewish prime ministerial candidate must garner 60% of the Jewish vote to overcome a unanimous Arab vote. (When Arabs are 20% of the voters, the percentage rises 67%.) So much for the Zionist dream of Jews controlling their own destiny.
Worst of all, once the nationalist genie is out of the bottle, it is impossible to coax it back in. Massive infusions of money in the Arab sector won’t do the job. Israeli Arabs are already far better off than any of their Arab neighbors.
Contrary to what Israelis sometimes believe, money is not most powerful goal in everyone’s life. The immiseration of the Palestinian population since October without dousing enthusiasm for violence against Israel is but one proof.
In short, Bishara and his fellow Arab MKs are only the tip of the iceberg of a threat to the Jewish state from within that may prove as intractable as that from without.
Related Topics: Israeli Society
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