Relations with the Israeli Arabs: Dr. Dan Schueftan

“The main issue is the nationality issue. No matter what we do in the area of equality, Israel will not be legitimate.”

I think this is the second most serious (after Iran) issue faced by Israel today. I’m reproducing in full the remarks made Tuesday at the Herzliya conference by Dr. Schueftan, Deputy Director, National Security Studies Center, University of Haifa. Unfortunately, the difficulties he describes will not go away by themselves. — Editor.

Dr. Schueftan:
Because I am about to discuss harsh matters of what Jews say about Arabs and what Arabs say about Jews, I suggest you step outside and read the documents regarding The Vision of the Arab-Israeli Future [possibly this— ed.] in order to be convinced.

I’m referring to the fact that in the short term we are facing a dead end. The source of the basic view of the Arab minority in Israel is that equality is not the main issue. As far as they are concerned, nothing short of the destruction of the Jewish enterprise will be enough. If there will be no destruction and no establishment of a bi-national country, then Israel will be considered illegitimate. Therefore, even if Israel continues to close the gap between both social statuses, Israel will still be illegitimate. This is why equality is not the core issue.

As far as the Arabs are concerned we have reached a dead-end because they have idolized the concept that they are the exploited victim and that they cannot be saved. That is why we are making a fundamental mistake when trying to create symmetry on the basis of justice. The Arabs are also striving for justice and the existence of the Jewish state, which is what they see as a colony, existing in a state of unjust reality.

As far as the Jews are concerned, they also consider this situation to be a dead-end because they have no intention of doing what the Arab minority demands.

There is even a structural problem in the socio-economic field. The per-capita income of the Muslim population is substantially smaller than the income of non-ultra religious Jewish families. The Arab-Israelis aren’t willing to accept that they are lower on the list of priorities.

The main issue is the nationality issue. No matter what we do in the area of equality, Israel will not be legitimate. Jews have learned this through a line of events like the October riots and the Lebanon War in which every enemy of Israel was entitled to the sympathy of the Arab population.

The Arab minority demands recognition of exclusive Jewish fault in the Arab-Israeli conflict. They demand a display of remorse due to their oppression and exploitation. We can find the following in Arab booklets: “The Jews who rose as colonial phenomenon have conquered, destroyed and killed. The Palestinians only fought”.

Therefore, even when there is an attempt to have a dialog, the dialog fails. It turns out that even when the Jews accept the basic assumption that there will be a Palestinian state and are even prepared to change the national anthem, all of these options are rejected so long as the Jewish state is not revoked.

These things aren’t the statements of radicals, but a rainbow of opinions that have one thing in common.

Here is where I am supposed to reassure you and tell you that everything will work out, however I claim the opposite: it will not work out. There is a consensus on the Palestinian side that has adopted the Palestinian ethos while well aware of its price. On the Jewish side there is a belief that there is no solution for this problem and accepts that as reality. However, this reality doesn’t have to result in a violent confrontation or power struggle.

The efforts to remove inequality will continue.

On a national level the situation is getting worse. Both sides are not content, but when facing the alternative the status quo will remain.

In my opinion neither side is faced with a real dilemma. I don’t believe the Jews are planning on entering a dialog based on the consensus of the Arab population. Similarly, the Arab side isn’t facing a dilemma either.

My last sentence is that both sides understand each other more than they did in the past. There is no use of thinking in the concepts of advantages, but rather only in the concepts of damage control.

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