Rekhess Comment on The Future Vision
On "Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel"
Tel Aviv Notes (pdf)
By Elie Rekhess
December 19, 2006
Several position papers on the future of Jewish-Arab relations in Israel have recently beenissued. The most striking is "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," prepared bythe National Committee of the Heads of Arab Local Councils and endorsed by the Supreme Follow-up Committee of the Arabs in Israel. What has gained the most attention is its national-historical perspective on three issues:
First, the document rejects the nature of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state which, the authors argue, perpetuates the inferior status of its Arab citizens. The present system, says the document, should be supplanted with a "consociational democracy," namely a bi-national state model, based on full power-sharing between the two national groups in government, distribution of resources, decision-making, proportional representation and the mutual right of veto on crucial decisions. The country's national symbols, such as the anthem, flag and emblem, would also be modified.
Secondly, the Committee's paper calls for full equality in the civic, national and historical spheres, including, inter alia, equal rights of immigration and citizenship quotas, a demand which may imply the elimination of the "Law of Return" allowing Jews to freely immigrate to Israel. Special reference is made to the socioeconomic differences between the Jewish and Arab sectors, particularly with regard to land, urban planning, housing, infrastructure, economic development, social change and education.
Demands for equal rights are intertwined with those insisting on the endorsement of the Palestinian historical narrative and recognition of the Arabs in Israel as an indigenous minority. The document calls for an official cknowledgement of the 1948 Nakba ("calamity"; referring to the defeat and displacement of the Palestinians). "Internal refugees" who remained in Israel and whose land was expropriated should be allowed to return to their original lands, and Waqf (religious endowment) property, administrated since 1948 by the Israeli government, should revert to the control of the Muslim community.
Thirdly, the paper suggests structuralinstitutional changes, specifically self-rule (autonomy) in education, religious and cultural affairs, and the media, in order to guarantee the unrestricted development of the Arab minority’s specific collective identity. It also proposes the establishment of an elected, country-wide representative body for the Arabs in Israel.