Most Arab Israelis would like to see their representatives in the Knesset focus less on the Palestinian issue and more on problems facing the Arab sector, Mohammad Darawshe, chairman of the newly formed Arab party Ma’an (together) said Sunday.
While nearly 55% of Arab-Israelis care about the Palestinian issue, only 9% believe it should be the No. 1 issue for Arab MKs, he said.
Darawshe, a resident of the village of Iksal near Nazareth and a director at the Givat Haviva Center for Equality and Shared Society, said his party’s main focus in the next Knesset would be on economic and social issues related to the Arab sector and not the Palestinian issue.
“That does not mean we will give up our main principles, namely, supporting the two-state solution,” he said. “But we are not the ones responsible for the establishment of a Palestinian state. That’s the job of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority should be handling this matter and not the Arab members of the Knesset.”
Darawshe’s remarks seemed to hit a chord with a growing number of Arab-Israelis who are disappointed with their current representatives in the Knesset, specifically the Joint List members.
Many Arab citizens have long accused the Arab MKs of spending more time and effort defending the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip than helping their own constituents.
Citing polls that show the Joint List will lose four or five seats in the upcoming general election, Darawshe said Arabs are dissatisfied with the performance of their representatives and want new leadership.
“Polls give the Joint List [which now has 15 seats] eight to 10 seats,” he said. “The question is what are we going to do with the five to seven seats that the Arab sector is about to lose. We want to prevent these seats from going to other parties.”
According to Ma’an’s platform, its goal is to “end institutional and legal racism and fully participate in decision-making.” It also seeks to enter a government coalition as part of its effort to achieve equality and integration of Arabs into the state institutions.
“Our new party comes to reshape Jewish-Arab discourse in Israel,” Darawshe told The Jerusalem Post. “We want to reflect the perspectives of the majority of Arab citizens, who seek full integration in Israeli society on the basis of civic equality. We are not shy of reality; while having clear Palestinian identity, we admit our Israeli citizenship and maximize its potential to serve our community.”
Arab-Israelis have over the past 73 years faced two types of “marginalization,” Darawshe said. First, “discrimination” by the state and the political Jewish system,” Second, “self-marginalization” by refraining from entering the full political game.
“We are a group of about 130 people who feel that it’s time to take our destiny into our own hands and not to be satisfied by expressing our pain and anger in parliamentary backseats,” he told the Post. “We want frontline seats around the government table, and to do that, we need to challenge both the Joint List and the other political parties that are keeping us in the old school of politics.”
Darawshe criticized the Joint List representatives, saying they have failed to fulfill their promises to the Arab sector.
“They promised unity, but they are only busy fighting for partisan funding and seats,” he said. “They promised effectiveness, but they are stuck in being an opposition within the opposition. We want ministerial seats of a social and economic nature, where the money is. We need this to get our society out of poverty, out of unemployment. We want schools, quality of life and prosperity.”
Referring to the preoccupation of some of the Arab MKs with the Palestinian issue, Darawshe said: “The Palestinian issue is important, but it has a proper leadership to lead the matter. We want to be constructive contributors to peace-building between Israel and the Palestinians that would lead to a peaceful agreement that would yield a Palestinian state to end the suffering and conflict. We do not want to have a destructive role; it’s not our job to push the ceiling of demands.”