By Ambassador (ret.) Yoram Ettinger
Israel's March 17, 2015 general election shed light on the increasingly local – rather than national/regional - order of priorities of the 1.7 million Israeli Arabs; the intensifying Israelization/localization of their self-determination; the widening cultural/ideological gap between Israeli Arabs and the Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza; the deep fragmentation within Israeli Arabs (despite the current Joint Arab Slate); their growing appreciation of Israel's civil liberties and expanded trust in Israel's political system; and the gap between the worldview of a growing number of Israeli Arabs on the one hand and most Arab Knesset Members on the other hand.
According to a February, 17, 2015 public opinion survey, conducted by Tel Aviv University's researcher Arik Rudnitzky, a project manager at the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation, the top prioritiesof Israeli Arabs are employment, education, healthcare, neighborhood crime and women's rights (43%), ahead of enhancing the status of the Arab community in Israel (28.1%) and the Israel-Palestinian conflict/negotiation (19%).
Moreover, the survey concluded that 61.3% of Israel's Arab sector considers the Knesset an effective arena to address their concern. Only 12.2% dismiss the Knesset as a platform to advance the fortunes of Israeli Arabs.
A February 17, 2015 poll, conducted by Stat Net indicated that 77% of Israeli Arabs prefer Israeli – over Palestinian – citizenship, and 64% are optimistic about Jewish-Arab relations. Unprecedentedly, 60% of Arab voters would like the Joint Arab Slate to partake in Israel's coalition government. While 30% would join only a coalition government led by Labor (the Zionist Camp Party), 28% would join a coalition headed by either Labor or Likud. Contrary to most Arab Knesset Members, 70% of Israeli Arabs care more about their socio-economic status than about solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They are more concerned about the standard of living among Israeli Arabs in the city of Ramla, than about the nationalistic aspirations of the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah. Similarly, the 2014 special election for the mayor of Nazareth featured a resounding victory (62%:38%) by Ali Salam – who focused on civic challenges in Nazareth - over Ramiz Jaraisy, who highlighted his identification with the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah.
According to Rudnitzky, the dramatic increase in the turnout of Arab voters from 56.5% in 2013, 53.4% in 2009 and 56.3% in 2006 to about 64% in 2015 reflects the widening interaction/integration between Israel's Jews and Arabs, and the growing Arab confidence in the Israeli political system. This is in contrast to the lowest ever 18% Arab turnout during the 2001 election. Current political Arab involvement aims at peacefully coexisting with – rather than confronting - the Jewish majority. In 2015, most Israeli Arabs strive for political and civic national self-determination, and improvement of their civic status, within the boundaries of the Jewish State. A growing majority of Arab voters appreciates Israel's democracy, especially when observing the flaming Arab Tsunami on the Arab Street throughout the Middle East, devoid of civil liberties, replete with violent intolerance towards minorities and each other.
Will the current trend of Israelization/co-existence withstand the tectonic pressures on the Israeli Arab Street, which are fueled by the savage, intra-Muslim rampage from the Persian Gulf through northeast Africa: Islamists VS secularists, pro and con women equality, local VS national preoccupation, integrationists VS separatists, civil liberties VS Sharia', etc.?
Against the backdrop of 1,400 years of no intra-Muslim peaceful coexistence, and in view of the endemic civic majority-minorities restlessness in most Western democracies, one should not underestimate the evolving political, cultural, economic Jewish-Arab coexistence in the Jewish State, one of the world's leading democracies, which confronts clear and present lethal dangers: daily terrorism and war launched by the brethren of its Arab minority.