Israeli Arabs struggle with burgeoning identity crisis

Increasing support for Palestinians clashes with readiness to recognize Israel.

israeli arab 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
israeli arab 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
National Palestinian sentiment is on the rise among Arabs in Israel, a survey conducted by the Jaffe Institute in December and January revealed. Sixty-eight percent of the 510 Arab and Druse adults surveyed said they "agree" or "strongly agree" that a national represented elected body should be established for Palestinians in Israel; 86% support the right of return for Palestinian refugees; while 88% support a Muslim administration for the Wakf affairs. "The findings indicate the growing strength of national-Palestinian currents among Arabs in Israel," noted Dr. Elie Rekhess, director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish-Arab Cooperation at Tel Aviv University and author of the survey. "At the same time," Rekhess emphasized, "this is only one side of the coin. The survey also highlighted the duality characterizing the political outlook of the Arab public, which identifies as both Palestinian and Israeli." Only 9.4% of the participants supported the establishment of a "bi-national state," while 25.5% supported a "Jewish democratic state that guarantees equal rights to all citizens;" 13.9% supported a "Jewish democratic state in its current format;" and 38.7% supported a "state of all its citizens." "Furthermore," noted Rekhess, "the readiness to recognize Israel also stands out in that 60% of the participants support a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict based on the principle of 'two states for two peoples.' An additional 23.3% expressed moderate support for this principle." According to Rekhess, the results of the survey underline the deep sense of discrimination of Arabs in Israel. Approximately 75% of the participants said they experienced discrimination in the national, economic, social or cultural spheres. According to survey participants, relations between Jews and Arabs have deteriorated in recent years: 28.2% of the participants would have described the relationship as "very good" 10 years ago, but only 6.5% describe it as such today. Still, 54.5% of the participants describe the current relationship as "good." The vast majority (87%) believes that action should be taken to improve the relationship between Jews and Arabs. Findings further indicated the growing strength of the Islamic Movement: Approximately 23% believed that the Islamic Movement faithfully represents the interests of Arabs in Israel in contrast to 25.3% support for Arab parties.