Peri, Shelah meet mayors to stem downward spiral in Arab-Jewish relations

Minister praises local officials for attempts to effect calm.

Yaakov Peri 370 (photo credit: Knesset)
Yaakov Peri 370
(photo credit: Knesset)
Against the background of the riots in the Israeli Arab sector over the past few days, Science, Technology and Space Minister Yaakov Peri, who is the chairman of the Ministerial Committee for the Non-Jewish Sector, and MK Ofer Shelah, met on Sunday with Arab community leaders and the mayors of the Arab cities of Kalansuwa and Baka al-Gharbiya.
The Mayor of Kalansuwa, Abdel Baset Salame, offered a public apology to the Jewish public: “I must apologize publicly, hoping my words reach the ears and hearts of the Jews in Israel.”
Salame added that he supports peaceful coexistence between neighbors.
He accused government officials of making “right-wing and racist statements.”
He appeared to be referring in part to Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman’s statement on Saturday saying that “these events once again make clear that these people do not belong in the State of Israel,” but rather that “there place is in prison.”
Peri, initiated the gathering and decided to skip the cabinet meeting in order to pacify the fissures between Arabs and Jews, which have been exacerbated in recent weeks by the murder of three Jewish teens and that of an Arab boy in Jerusalem.
Peri, who is a former head of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), praised Arab leaders that tried to calm the situation saying, “I very much appreciate the Arab leaders that emerged and condemned the riots and violence.”
Peri, seeming to concur with Salame in calling out statements by members of the government, saying, “Our role as leaders and public emissaries is to mitigate the incitement and demonstrate leadership in order to douse the flames.”
For his part, Shelah (Yesh Atid) said that those who “burned tires and blocked entrances to towns sought to inspire fear and hatred and draw a picture that only causes the other side to more extremism.”
Thabet Abu Rass, coexecutive director of The Abraham Fund Initiatives, told The Jerusalem Post in an interview on Sunday that the trigger of the latest protests was the murder of the east Jerusalem youth, who Palestinians believe was murdered by Jewish extremists. The police confirmed these suspicions by saying that they had arrested Jewish extremists for allegedly carrying out the attack.
Abu Rass said that there are deeper causes for the protests that took place in Arab-Israeli towns in the Center and the Galilee.
“I think that as long as we are not treating these deep causes we will see these kinds of things again,” he asserted.
Young Arabs have been seething with frustration from even before the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens, he said, pointing out that some of it is due to Jewish incitement against the Arab public such as is carried out in the ongoing “price-tag” attacks, some of which he said went unreported to police.
It has gotten to a point where “Arabs are saying they are afraid to go to work in the Jewish community.”
“There is no split between the Palestinians in Jerusalem and those of the Galilee,” he said.
The fact is, claims Abu Rass, that the government does not take Arab citizenship seriously as over the past couple of weeks Liberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett and even Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu have been inciting against the Arab public.
“A wave of hatred and racism is now taking place in Israeli society and has the potential of inflaming Arab-Jewish relations,” argued Abu Rass.