Druze candidate and Shfaram resident Hamed Amer may be the party's biggest surprise yet.
By ABE SELIG
If recent opinion polls hold true, Israel Beiteinu - a party dismissed as outwardly anti-Arab by some of its critics - will obtain a Knesset seat for one of the five Druze candidates running in Tuesday's election.
Hamed Amer, a 43-year-old lawyer and father of three from the Galilee town of Shfaram, is number 12 on Israel Beiteinu's list. The party is expected to receive at least 18 mandates in the new Knesset.
"I would say this is the most convincing proof that we don't distinguish between races or ethnicity," said Danny Ayalon, a former ambassador to the US and number seven on the party's list. "It also proves, case in point, that you don't have to be a Jew to be loyal to the state."
He was referring to Israel Beiteinu's controversial call for Israeli Arabs to sign a loyalty oath as a condition for citizenship.
"I met [Amer] for the first time during the campaign, and I was immediately impressed with his vision and his dedication to the Jewish State," Ayalon said. "He's a member of the Druze Zionist Council and he served for four years in the IDF."
Amer also served on the Shfaram municipal council in 1998 and has chaired the Druze Youth Movement in the Galilee.
"He's a great representative of Israel Beiteinu," Ayalon said.
But others are less impressed with Amer's standing in the right-wing party.
"Israeli Arabs aren't swayed by this," said Dr. Muhammad Atara, a former Bar-Ilan University professor who now teaches English and politics at Beit Berl College near Kfar Saba. "I don't think they're even looking at it with such a close eye. I know Jews who won't have anything to do with Israel Beiteinu, so you could imagine how Arabs feel."
Atara added that members of the Druze community in right-wing parties is nothing new.
"Just look at [former Likud MK] Ayoub Kara," he said. "It's the same thing."
Atara said that in his opinion, Druze who join up with such parties are acting in the name of personal interest and nothing more.
"What is significant here is that these elections are going to decide the way Jewish-Arab relations look for years to come," he said. "This party has taken one issue and positioned themselves to become the third largest party in the country because of it. I think that is more significant than a Druze running on their list."
According to 2008 government statistics, Israel had 120,000 Druze citizens who made up 1.6 percent of the country's population.
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