braverman , labor 298.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Following the indictment of Amir Mahoul and Omar Said for espionage and maintaining contact with an enemy agent, The Jerusalem Post interviewed the minister in charge of minority affairs, Avishay Braverman (Labor), to hear from him about the implications of the charges for domestic relations between Arabs and Jews.
“The accusations appear to be serious, but we need to let the legal procedure take its course,” Braverman said. “I always remind people that until the court gives its ruling, the suspects are innocent. The law applies to both Arabs and Jews. Anyone found guilty will be forced to pay the price.
“At the same time I want to raise a concern I have; already we are seeing factions beginning to incite, I want it to be clear that a vast majority of the Arab Israeli citizens of Israel are loyal to the country. The extremist elements do not reflect the majority of the Arab public.”
Braverman said that the fact that the two men indicted were members of political movements did not necessarily make them leaders and representatives of the Arab population.
“I have held many talks with members of the Arab population all across the country. I have met with Arab businessmen, Arab intellectuals, young Arabs, Arab municipal heads; all of them expect different leadership,” Braverman said. “The political parties, Kadima, the Likud and Labor, have repeatedly disappointed them.
“Apart from Yitzhak Rabin, not a single leader looked the Arab Israelis in the eye, gave them their deserved respect and provided them with adequate resources. This government has begun to restart the process with a series of initiatives. The Arabs want new leadership, but they need someone to deliver the goods.”
Braverman said that he was concerned that there were factions that would take advantage of the indictments to promote divisive causes.
“There are elements in Israel who want to inflame the conflict. I see it around the cabinet table. They use incidents like this to incite fear and hatred. I want to be clear, that is not the way to achieve long lasting success,” he said.
“I am very worried about ministers using inciting language and taking advantage of the incident for the sake of gaining a couple of extra seats in the Knesset and tilting the balance that exists in our society. The only thing they will achieve by doing this is to push people toward extremism,” Braverman said. “We need to promote equality and silence those elements in the government for whom democracy and equality are foreign and who use racism to gain votes.
“There are parties on both sides of the political spectrum, both Jewish parties and Arab parties, that are extremists, and they feed off one another. The majority in the center is smart and understands that the only way to live peacefully is by promoting peace and equality.”
When asked if in his meetings with Arabs Israelis he felt mounting
extremism on their part, Braverman responded that “there is frustration
among some of the younger Arab Israelis because they feel that Israel
has failed them. What we need to do to ensure peaceful coexistence in
Israel, and I also said this to the prime minister, is to move forward
on two tracks.
“One is to push toward a two-state solution with
the Palestinians, which will settle many of the internal tensions, and
the other is provide civil and economic equality to the Arab minority.
Anyone who uses this incident to draw an opposite conclusion is wrong,
misleading and causing grievous harm to the state.
“Israel is at
a crossroads in term of its long-term survival. The real way forward is
the way of Yitzhak Rabin,” Braverman said. “To be a historic figure,
Binyamin Netanyahu must follow the path of Rabin, push forward on the
two-state solution and promote economic and civil equality for the
“On the second point, there is no problem of weak or
uncooperative leadership, there are no settlements that need to be
dismantled. It is a win-win situation. In the end the only way for
Israel to develop fully is by providing the Arab-Israeli citizens with
full equality. It is not only just and in the spirit of the Declaration
of Independence; it is economically smart and the only way to eject the
dangerous elements to the sidelines.”