MK Hamed Amer is barely recognized outside of the voter pool of 60,000 Druse voters in Israel, but the vote-gathering powerhouse from Israel Beiteinu told The Jerusalem Post recently that his party is growing in popularity among Israel's Druse who support Chairman Avigdor Lieberman's "no loyalty, no citizenship" policy.
In at least one program on Israel Radio marking the end of the 18th Knesset's first session, Amer was chosen as one of the "least stand-out" MKs among the incoming class, but Amer argues that within his own community he is considered an up-and-coming force.
According to Amer, 7,000 Druse voted for Israel Beiteinu, making it the second-most-popular party among Druse voters in this year's elections. Labor, Likud, Kadima and Balad all also ran Druse candidates but, Amer says, "Israel Beiteinu has very serious support in the Druse street."
The Shfaram resident and father of three joined Israel Beiteinu fresh out of university in 1999, and has been coordinating support in the Druse community ever since. On the way, he also founded a Zionist Druse Youth Movement that encourages safety, community service and enlistment - for men - into Israel's security forces. The movement's members go house-to-house on Memorial Day visiting each bereaved family within the Druse community. The movement's symbol, Amer is proud to point out, depicts the five-pointed Druse star inside of the Star of David.
The symbol embodies Amer's outlook on his community's role in Israel - and his explanation of why he believes that Druse support for his party will only continue to grow.
"Israel Beiteinu believes in loyalty for citizenship, and there is
nobody more loyal than the Druse. They have proven it for 61 years and the subject doesn't need to be examined any more. There is no other party that focuses on the issue of loyalty," explained Amer. "The Druse are an inseparable part of Israel, who believe in Israel as a Jewish and Zionist state and have no problem with that fact. But they also believe that when you give you should receive in return, and Israel Beiteinu is the only party that discusses that topic."
"This ethnic group that has given so much, that began to give to the country before the state had even been established, should be adopted by the state. And the state should give it its rightful place, because otherwise Arab MKs can say to us "why are you talking about enlisting to the IDF. Look at the Druse, look at their education, their unemployment, their lack of housing.' I don't want that. I want the state to take the Druse as a project, to see how they can place them in the best possible position. It is in Israel's interest to do so."
Since entering the Knesset after the elections, Amer has drafted a law to establish a new Druse urban community that seeks to solve a housing crunch that has lead to a drastic reduction in the marriage rate among Druse youth. He has also worked with the Prime Minister's Office and with his own party chairman, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, to help end the financial crisis and strike in Druse local councils, and plans to attempt to work on extending Druse municipal boundaries and zoning plans to enable more residential building.
According to Amer, the serious problems in the Druse sector today are "1. building, 2. employment and 3. education." And Amer sees, in the current administration, "readiness to address the problems, both from the prime minister as well as from members of Israel Beiteinu."
Amer, who in his spare time is a karate master, is nonplussed by his reputation as the strong and silent - perhaps even too silent - type. "To stand out means to do something different, to generate spin. I am not built for spin, but for action," he argues. "They will talk and I will work. And among my voters, I have my own status - they know what I do and what I give to the sector."
But Amer holds no illusions. Although he and Ayoub Kara (Likud) are the most popular of the sector's MKs, he does not believe that the community is taking a right - or a left - turn. "The direction is not right or left but to live with honor. If they see that Israel Beiteinu will help them do that, because we believe in rewarding those who gave to the country, then they will support us. But if tomorrow Israel Beiteinu - or Hamed Amer - doesn't provide the goods, they won't."