On the one-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, there are certain Arab Knesset members who are using this opportunity to castigate Israel and score points abroad. What makes this even more disheartening is the fact that while Arab MKs are becoming more extreme and less allied with the state that pays their wages, many of their constituents are seeking greater integration with the Jewish state.
A recent report published by Shlomit, the National Service Placement Organization, indicated that the past year has seen an almost 100-percent increase in the number of Arab-Israelis volunteering for National Service. While the total numbers are not staggering, they do represent a sizable portion of the Israeli Arab sector that is moving toward greater civic responsibility.
During last year's general elections, my party, Israel Beiteinu, was castigated for making civic responsibility and its corollary, enhanced loyalty to the state where one resides, a part of its platform. It is obvious by our success at the polls that this resonated with a public that has become incensed with the situation in which many share a burden that others don't. While many doomsayers felt that ending this acquiescent disparity would further alienate certain minority groups, the opposite has been proven true.
HOWEVER, WHILE significant numbers in the Arab community are seeking greater integration, their supposed representatives in the Knesset are falling over themselves to play to a different constituency.
During a recent rally at the Erez crossing, Balad MK Jamal Zahalka hurled disgraceful abuse at Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who he said enjoys "classical music and killing children in Gaza." He then reiterated these remarks in an interview with Dan Margalit on theNew Evening TV show until Margalit became so incensed with this blood libel that he ordered Zahalka to leave.
Earlier at the same rally, MK Taleb a-Sanaa (UAL-Ta'al) allowed Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh to use his cellphone as a speaker to direct his torrent of abuse against Israel to the assembled crowd. Sanaa is an employee of the state and thus receives certain benefits like a cellphone, which means that our taxes were being used by a member of an organization sworn to destroy our state. This is unacceptable and should be a matter of concern for all.
Can one imagine a scenario where an American congressman relayed the rants of Osama bin Laden or Ayman al-Zawahiri to a crowd in the US using a state-funded communications device? No nation on earth would accept this situation, and this is why Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch has rightly demanded that Sanaa be charged with supporting a terrorist organization.
IT HAS long been clear to us that the public declarations of many Arab MKs are primarily for foreign consumption, where they seek the approval of extreme elements in the wider Arab world. These elected officials do not serve their constituents' interests properly and continually propel outside agendas at the cost of providing adequate representation to the Arab Israeli population.
It is clear, not only from Shlomit's statistics, but also from our frequent visits to Arab towns and villages, that many in these communities are interested in greater partnership with the state and its institutions. However, actions and comments like those by Zahalka, Sanaa and, most notoriously, former MK Azmi Bishara, have tarnished the image of the Arab Israeli leadership.
Israel Beiteinu opened the debate on accountability and civic responsibility, not on a religious or ethnic scale, but on a merit-based scale. It is time to create a legal bar of acceptable behavior for an elected official who receives his stipend and benefits from the taxpayers' purse.
AS WITNESSED by its attempts to push through a reworded loyalty oath, Israel Beiteinu remains at the forefront of attempting to achieve acceptable norms of responsibility among our elected officials. People have claimed that this would achieve little and it is just words. However, as we know from history, words are very important and we ascertain from the efforts against the bill how important this issue remains. Now more than ever, when certain MKs are being used as mouthpieces of the enemy, it is vital that there is a standard code of conduct for all, regardless of race, religion or ethnicity.
We must make it clear that when one is elected to Knesset, representation is for the people of Israel only and not foreign elements, especially those involved in murderous terrorism. MKs are elected by the people, to serve the people, and are funded by taxpayers' money; it is to the Jewish and democratic State of Israel and its laws that they remain accountable.
Israel Beiteinu applauds those Arab Israelis who volunteer for the army or National Service and continually seek greater integration with our state. To those in the Arab Israeli leadership who continually pander to foreign elements and ignore their constituency, we will continue to remind them that Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. No other nation can accept less.
The writer is deputy minister of foreign affairs.