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(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A member of Israel's Islamist Movement considers joining Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's new political party. Sami Issa, Head of Kafr Kassem Local Council, told The Jerusalem Post he remains undecided about whether to join Sharon or not.
"You'll be the first to know once I make a decision," he said.
Issa is one of many Arab Israeli leaders who were approached by members of Sharon's new party to join its ranks, according to a report Friday in the Arab-Israeli daily, Kul Al-Arab. The report by investigative reporter Mohammed Watad revealed that Sharon was trying to draft Arab leaders from all over Israel to join his party in order to gain the support of the general Arab population in Israel.
While it is no surprise that some Arabs such as Ahmed Dabah, a Likud party member and Head of the joint Local Council of Der Al-Assad/Bani/Majd al-Krum, have sworn their allegiance to Sharon, Issa's move from the Islamist Movement to Kadima would be nothing less than unusual.
The southern faction of the Islamist Movement of Israel works to achieve unity among Arabs to have a greater voice and influence in Israeli politics. Its leaders call on uniting all Arab parties to be a single force to counter the influence of the Jewish and Zionist parties.
Joining Sharon not only means crossing an ideological barrier, it would also mean leaving his job as head of a town of 17,000 residents, which may soon get city status.
Issa is not likely to do that without a promise of something more than just a seat on Kadima. Sharon's associates have told the press that Sharon would give a ministry to an Arab.
Meanwhile, Issa is deliberating. "Call me in ten days," Issa told The Post.
MK Abdulmalek Dehamshe, the leader of the United Arab List, a joint list of the Islamic Movement and of Mada, the party led by MK Taleb A-Sanaa, could not believe that Issa would leave the Movement to join Sharon.
"This is presently just chit-chat," said MK Dehamshe. "Who knows if it's true?" If it were true, said Dehamshe, "it's his choice." But he emphasized that his party had nothing to do with it. "We did not send him; if we want to talk to Sharon we can do so," said Dehamshe. "If he goes to Sharon it's his own issue he will no longer be a member of the Movement."
Meanwhile, Sharon received compliments and support from a foreign Arab leader. In an interview with the Spanish daily, ABC, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said that Sharon was the Israeli leader most capable of making peace.
"I have had experience with various Israeli leaders since I was vice-president," Mubarak said. "Among all the Israeli politicians, Sharon is the only one capable of achieving peace with the Palestinians. He possesses the capacity to make difficult decisions, to commit to what he says and to carry it out." The Egyptian president praised Sharon for his "brave decision" to withdraw from the Gaza Strip and expressed his belief that Sharon will continue with the peace process.
"The recent progress in Israel confirms that," he said. "He has left his own party to create a more centrist one, driven by his discontent with the rigid attitudes of his party regarding the peace process. I sincerely hope that we will make the most of the presence of Sharon and Abbas in order to realize tangible progress."
Meanwhile, MK Taleb A-Sanaa returned Sunday from a three-day trip to Qatar where he worked on getting the Qataris to help establish the first Arab University in Israel and to open their doors to Israeli Arab businessmen.
The Arab Beduin leader of the Mada party said he met with the chairman of the Shura Council, members of the Qatari Parliament and officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Qatar Red Crescent. Sanaa said that Qatar is expressing interest in the political events in Israel and the consequences for the future of the peace process.
"They were optimistic about the future of the peace process," said Sanaa.