Archive for Avigdor Lieberman

Palestinian factions in reconciliation bid

Posted in Fatah, Gaza, Hamas, International community, Israel, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 28/04/2011 by 3071km

Date published: 28/04/2011

Source: Al Jazeera English

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Fatah and Hamas agree to form interim government and fix general election date following talks in Cairo.

Fatah, the Palestinian political organisation, has reached an agreement with its rival Hamas on forming an interim government and fixing a date for a general election, Egyptian intelligence has said.

In February, Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority and a member of Fatah, called for presidential and legislative elections before September, in a move which was rejected by Hamas at the time.

Abbas signalled on Thursday that peace talks with Israel would still be possible during the term of a new interim government formed as part of a unity deal with Hamas.

Abbas said the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO), which he heads and to which Hamas does not belong, would still be responsible for “handling politics, negotiations”.

He was speaking for the first time since the unity deal was unveiled in Cairo on Wednesday.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

“The consultations resulted in full understandings over all points of discussions, including setting up an interim agreement with specific tasks and to set a date for election,” Egyptian intelligence said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The two sides signed initial letters on an agreement. All points of differences have been overcome,” Taher Al-Nono, a Hamas government spokesman in Gaza, told the Reuters news agency.

He said that Cairo would shortly invite both sides to a signing ceremony.

Speaking to Al Jazeera from Gaza, Ghazi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, said: “I think we are optimistic because … there is [an] official agreement between Hamas and Fatah, and I think we now have [an] impressive jump to the Palestinian unity.

“Maybe it does not come as a shock because I think it came as a fruit of long talks and discussion.

“I think that today we became very close to this agreement, we have finished some points. It is like [an] outline draft and I think it will be a good beginning.

“Maybe after that we will start on how to implement this agreement to be translated and practised on the ground.”

‘Geopolitical situation’

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said: “It is important news … the geopolitical situation wasn’t exactly helpful [to reconciliation] and then we went through six months of upheavals, certainly sweeping through Egypt.

“At the end, you could say that President Abbas has lost his patron in Egypt, which is President Mubarak, and Hamas is more on less facing almost similar trouble now, with Bashar al-Assad [Syria’s president] facing his own trouble in Damascus.

“So with the US keeping a distance and Israel not delivering the goods on the peace process and the settlements, it was time for Palestinians to come together and agree on what they basically agreed on almost a year and a half ago.”

Binyamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, said on Wednesday that Abbas could not hope to forge a peace deal with Israel if he pursued a reconciliation accord with Hamas.

“The Palestinian Authority must choose either peace with Israel or peace with Hamas. There is no possibility for peace with both,” he said.

In his televised statement, Netanyahu said Israel could not accept Hamas as a negotiating partner because it “aspires to destroy Israel, it says so publicly, it fires rockets on our cities, it fires anti-tank rockets on our children.”

He said that the surprise announcement of a reconciliation deal “exposes the Palestinian Authority’s weakness”.

And on Thursday, Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said the deal marks the “crossing of a red line”.

Lieberman warned that the accord could lead to the militant group’s takeover of the Fatah-run West Bank.

But top Abbas aide Nabil Abu Rdaineh said the reconciliation did not concern Israel.

“The agreement between Fatah and Hamas movements is an internal affair and has nothing to do with Israel. Netanyahu must choose between a just peace with the united Palestinian people … and settlements,” Abu Rdaineh said.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros reported from Ramallah that “a lot of people would say that this was really an empty kind of ultimatum – what peace process, or what peace deal, is prime minister Netanyahu actually talking about?

“The peace process very much took a hit in the last few months. There has been no peace process taking place between the Palestinian Authority and Israel because of Israel’s insistence on building on land that is being negotiated on.

“So I think many months back, the PA and Fatah decided to take their own route, away from this peace process, away from US mediation and try to really go it alone.”

The US is reviewing further reports on details of the reconciliation, and while it supports Palestinian reconciliation, Hamas remains “a terrorist organisation which targets civilians”, Tommy Vietor, US National Security Council spokesman, said.

“To play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must accept the Quartet principles and renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

Hamas does not recognise Israel as a state.

‘Bitter split’

Fatah holds power in the occupied West Bank while Hamas, which won the last parliamentary election in 2006, routed Abbas’ forces in 2007 to seize control of the Gaza Strip.

Rawya Rageh, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Cairo, said: “This effectively will be ending a bitter split that Palestinians have been witnessing since 2007.

Rageh said the deal was expected to be signed next week and would be attended by Abbas and Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, who is based in Damascus.

Nicole Johnston, Al Jazeera’s correspondent in Gaza, said: “One of the main civil society groups here is calling on all Palestinian factions to head down to the main square in Gaza City, the square of the unknown soldier, to begin the celebrations.

“It seems certainly in Gaza that there’s a need for some good news. It’s been a pretty rough month here in a lot of respects, an escalation of violence with Israel, the kidnapping and murder of a foreigner.

“So really, this kind of news … is a call for celebration.”

Wednesday’s accord was first reported by Egypt’s intelligence service, which brokered the talks.

In a statement carried by Egyptian state news agency MENA, the intelligence service said the deal was agreed by a Hamas delegation led by Moussa Abu Marzouk, deputy head of the group’s politburo, and Fatah central committee member Azzam al-Ahmad.

Al-Ahmad and Abu Marzouk said the agreement covered all points of contention, including forming a transitional government, security arrangements and the restructuring of the Palestine Liberation Organisation to allow Hamas to join it.

Speaking on Egyptian state television, al-Ahmad said a general election would take place within a year.

Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, said all prisoners with a non-criminal background would be released.

Israeli Arabs deserve better

Posted in Activism, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine with tags , , , , , , , on 14/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by Seth Freedman

Date published: Monday 14th September 2009

Source: The Guardian

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Israeli Arabs deserve better

Israel’s Arabs are right to call for a strike. Their sense of disenfranchisement is a problem too serious to ignore.

The announcement that the Israeli Arab leadership is calling for a general strike next month demonstrates the further deterioration of relations between the authorities and the beleaguered Arab citizens of the state. The 1.3 million Arabs living within Israel’s borders have never had the most cordial of relationships with the country’s rulers, and in the wake of the hard-right coalition’s election victory the gulf has grown even wider – culminating in the symbolic protest set for 1 October.

The date chosen is no accident: it marks nine years to the day since 13 Israeli Arab demonstrators were shot dead by Israeli police during a previous general strike – a set of killings that left societal scars that remain unhealed almost a decade later. The government’s latest set of proposals – such as the plan to ban the word “nakba” from school textbooks, and to link schools’ funding to their success rate in sending students to enlist in the army – have rubbed salt into wounds that continue to fester throughout the Arab community, culminating in the decision to down tools and speak out against their treatment.

The sense of disenfranchisement felt by the Israeli Arab minority is, according to academic Bernard Avishai, a problem too serious to be swept under the carpet by Israel’s leaders. Action must be taken, he urged, “to prevent a terrible intifada”, fearing a mass explosion of tension that will dwarf anything that’s gone on “in Gaza and the West Bank”.

“Israeli Arabs live in townships on the edge of Israeli cities; their intellectual elite go to Israeli universities and assimilate, while those not in those circles join drug gangs and jihadist cults.” He said that the Israeli Arab community expects to be treated as “full citizens of this country, nothing less” and unless this happens, tensions will spill over onto the streets.

The anti-Arab bias of senior Israeli politicians and military figures is well documented, and causes far more concern to the Israeli Arab community than the equally insidious behaviour of radical settler leaders and their cohorts. Unsavoury as the likes of Baruch Marzel and his merry men may be, their actions can in part be dismissed as the rantings and ravings of extremists living on the fringes of society. However, when similarly racist and discriminatory calls to arms emanate within mainstream Israeli society – from the upper echelons of power all the way down to street level – it is little wonder the Israeli Arab leadership take the situation so seriously.

Last month, foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman took aim at Ahmed Tibi, an Arab member of the Knesset and leader of the Arab nationalist party in Israel. “Our central problem is not the Palestinians,” declared Lieberman, “but Ahmed Tibi and his ilk: they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined.” Such incendiary talk is nothing new for Lieberman; in November 2006 he ratcheted up tension by comparing Israeli Arab nationalists with Hitler and his henchmen: “The heads of the Nazi regime, along with their collaborators, were executed. I hope this will be the fate of the collaborators in the Knesset.”

His proclamations are, quite rightly, denounced by those who recognise the menace latent in his words. “When the foreign minister says that, ordinary Israelis understand that he is calling for me to be killed as a terrorist,” said Tibi in relation to Lieberman’s recent outburst. “It is the most dangerous incitement.” Politicians lead by example, and Lieberman knows full well the impact the statements he makes can have on the man on the Israeli street.

Israeli Arabs have good reason to believe that they will never be fully accepted by Israeli society, despite assertions to the contrary on the part of more conciliatory and diplomatic members of Israeli officialdom. The proof is not simply the unabashed racism of the likes of Lieberman and Aharonovitch, nor the paucity of state provision of basic services in Arab towns and cities compared with the funding given to their Jewish counterparts.

Rather, the malaise is far more entrenched and permanent than isolated incidents of prejudice. The very fact that Israel is and plans to forever remain a Jewish state – and wouldn’t tolerate the election of an Arab prime minister or ruling coalition, despite all the claims that the system is truly democratic – gives the lie to any suggestion that Israeli Arabs can ever have an equal footing in Israeli society, or that the country is genuinely a state for all its citizens.

Against such a backdrop, the fears of the Israeli Arab community are entirely understandable. That the community has opted for peaceful demonstration against the status quo by way of general strikes, rather than violent resistance in the vein of their peers in the West Bank and Gaza, is a fortuitous state of affairs for the rest of Israeli society. But the longer their grievances are left unheeded, the more likely the dam is to eventually burst, and Israel’s rulers would do well to heed the caution of both Avishai and the Israeli Arab leadership. Israeli Arabs deserve better from those ruling the roost in Israel, as do Israeli Jews by extension – though if past performance is any guide to the future, the division and discrimination is doomed to continue for many years to come.

Israel’s Arab Citizens Call General Strike

Posted in Activism, Everyday life in the West Bank, History, Israel, Israeli occupation, Israeli politics, Palestine with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on 09/09/2009 by 3071km

Written by Jonathan Cook

Date published: 9th September 2009

Source: Dissident Voice

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Israel’s Arab Citizens Call General Strike

by Jonathan Cook / September 9th, 2009

The increasingly harsh political climate in Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has prompted the leadership of the country’s 1.3 million Arab citizens to call the first general strike in several years.

The one-day stoppage is due to take place on October 1, a date heavy with symbolism because it marks the anniversary of another general strike, in 2000 at the start of the second intifada, when 13 Arab demonstrators were shot dead by Israeli police.

The Arab leadership said it was responding to a string of what it called “racist” government measures that cast the Arab minority, a fifth of the population, as enemies of the state.

“In recent months, there has been a parallel situation of racist policies in the parliament and greater condoning of violence towards Arab citizens by the police and courts,” said Jafar Farah, the head of Mossawa, an Arab advocacy group in Israel. “This attitude is feeding down to the streets.”

Confrontations between the country’s Arab minority and Mr Netanyahu’s coalition, formed in the spring, surfaced almost immediately over a set of controversial legal measures.

The proposed bills outlawed the commemoration of the “nakba”, or catastrophe, the word used by Palestinians for their dispossession in 1948; required citizens to swear loyalty to Israel as a Zionist state; and banned political demands for ending Israel’s status as a Jewish state. Following widespread outcries, the bills were either watered down or dropped.

But simmering tensions came to a boil again late last month when the education minister, Gideon Saar, presented educational reforms to mark the start of the new school year.

He confirmed plans to drop the word “nakba” from Arabic textbooks and announced his intention to launch classes on Jewish heritage and Zionism. He also said he would tie future budgets for schools to their success in persuading pupils to perform military or national service.

Arab citizens are generally exempted from military service, although officials have recently been trying to push civilian national service in its place.

Mohammed Barakeh, an Arab member of the parliament, denounced the linking of budgets to national service, saying that Mr Saar “must understand that he is the education minister, not the defence minister”.

The separate Arab education system is in need of thousands of more classrooms and is massively underfunded – up to nine times more is spent on a Jewish pupil than an Arab one, according to surveys. Research published by the Hebrew University in Jerusalem last month showed that Jewish schools received five times more than Arab schools for special education classes.

Mr Netanyau, who accompanied Mr Saar on a tour of schools last week, appeared to give his approval to the proposed reforms: “We advocate education that stresses values, Zionism and a love of the land.”

Mr Barakeh also accused government ministers of competing to promote measures hostile to the Arab minority. “Anyone seeking fame finds it in racist whims against Arabs – the ministers of infrastructure, education, transportation, whoever.”

Mr Barakeh was referring to a raft of recent proposals.

Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister and leader of the far-right Yisrael Beiteinu party, announced last month that training for the diplomatic service would be open only to candidates who had completed national service.

Of the foreign ministry’s 980 employees only 15 are Arab, a pattern reflected across the civil service sector according to Sikkuy, a rights and coexistence organisation.

The housing minister, Ariel Atias, has demanded communal segregation between Jewish and Arab citizens and instituted a drive to make the Galilee, where most Arab citizens live, “more Jewish”.

The interior minister, Eli Yishai, has approved a wave of house demolitions, most controversially in the Arab town of Umm al Fahm in Wadi Ara, where a commercial district has been twice bulldozed in recent weeks.

The transport minister, Israel Katz, has insisted that road signs include placenames only as they are spelt in Hebrew, thereby erasing the Arabic names of communities such as Jerusalem, Jaffa and Nazareth.

Arab legislators have come under repeated verbal attack from members of the government. Last month, the infrastructures minister, Uzi Landau, refused to meet Taleb al Sana, the head of the United Arab List party, on parliamentary business, justifying the decision on the grounds that Arab MPs were “working constantly here and abroad to delegitimise Israel as a Jewish state”.

Shortly afterwards, Mr al Sana and his colleague Ahmed Tibi, the deputy speaker of parliament, attended Fatah’s congress in Bethlehem, prompting Mr Lieberman to declare: “Our central problem is not the Palestinians, but Ahmed Tibi and his ilk – they are more dangerous than Hamas and [Islamic] Jihad combined.”

Mr Tibi responded: “When Lieberman, the foreign minister, says that, ordinary Israelis understand that he is calling for me to be killed as a terrorist. It is the most dangerous incitement.”

Israel’s annual Democracy Index poll, published last month, showed that 53 per cent of Israeli Jews supported moves to encourage Arab citizens to leave.

Mr Farah said the strike date had been selected to coincide with the anniversary of the deaths of 13 Arab citizens in October 2000 to highlight both the failure to prosecute any of the policemen involved and the continuing official condoning of violence against Arab citizens by police and Jewish citizens.

Some 27 Arab citizens have been killed by the police in unexplained circumstances since the October deaths, Mr Farah said, with only one conviction. Last week, Shahar Mizrahi, an undercover officer, was given a 15-month sentence for shooting Mahmoud Ghanaim in the head from point-blank range. The judge called Mizrahi’s actions “reckless”.

This week, in another controversial case, Shai Dromi, a Negev rancher, received six months community service after shooting dead a Bedouin intruder, Khaled al Atrash, as the latter fled.

Mr Farah said the regard in which Arab citizens were held by the government was illustrated by a comment from the public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, in June. During an inspection of police officers working undercover as drug addicts, the minister praised one for looking like a “real dirty Arab”.

Tel Aviv is considering banning international funding to NGOs critical of the campaign in Gaza

Posted in Gaza, Gaza reconstruction, International community, Israel, Operation Cast Lead, War crimes with tags , , , , , , on 03/08/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 3rd August 2009

Source: Europa Press (translated into English by 3.071 Km).

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Tel Aviv is considering banning international funding to NGOs critical of the campaign in Gaza

The Israeli government calls on Spain to “reconsider” the “disproportionate” funding to local NGOs critical of Tel Aviv

JERUSALEM, Aug. 2 (EUROPA PRESS) —

Senior Israeli government were considering banning foreign governments, including the Spanish, to finance local NGOs especially critical after Tel Aviv bombing campaign in the Gaza Strip, an issue already dealt with the representatives of countries Netherlands, United Kingdom, and this week, members of the Executive President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, according to local media.

The restlessness of the Israeli government is built around the case of the NGO Breaking the Silence (Shrovim Shtika), headquartered in Hebron (West Bank), which published on July 15 in an extensive report which reflected the testimony of 30 revealed that Israeli soldiers, according to the document, brutal tactics employed by the Israeli Army during the bombing in the Gaza Strip (Operation Cast Lead) in January, including “the use of phosphorous gas in populated areas the murder of innocent people with small arms and destruction of private property “under a” permissive atmosphere in the command structure that allowed the soldiers act without moral restraints. ”

One of the most robust within the Israeli government to international funding of NGOs is the head of policy planning in the Office of the Prime Minister, Ron Dermer, who considered this as a “shameless and unacceptable” interference in internal affairs israel. “That European governments funded NGOs in the war against United States is as unacceptable as the European funded NGOs not only oppose the policies of the democratically elected Government of Israel, but trying to delegitimize the Jewish State,” he added in statements to the Hebrew newspaper.

In response to the Israeli Government, a dozen Israeli Human Rights organizations have expressed their support today to break the silence in a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, which is protesting the Israeli government’s attack on the group, which reached its climax when the government tried to prevent the influx of funds to NGOs.

“The testimonies of the soldiers,” the letter continued, “do not tell the story ‘official’ that the Israeli Government has communicated to the public, and put a question mark over the title of ‘most moral army in the world”, which employs Tel Aviv assiduously. “Instead of starting a public debate on these testimonies, the Government has chosen to wage a frontal assault with the publication of unsubstantiated allegations to undermine the credibility of the organization and the findings of the report,” according to the text signed by the association of NGOs, some of them financed by the Spanish Government.

SPANISH FUNDING

According to the newspaper ‘Haaretz’, sources in the Israeli government met with representatives of the Directorate of International Cooperation, Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs to “review the funding provided by Spain to NGOs dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict.”

Among the Israeli NGOs that have received funding Spanish is not only Breaking the Silence. Organizations like the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, the Israeli Committee against house demolitions, and Rabbis for Human Rights have also received financial support from the Spanish government, according to the newspaper ‘Jerusalem Post’.

The minister counselor of the Embassy of Spain in Tel Aviv, Juan González Barba, the newspaper said that the test that follows this funding is based on the principles of ” Spanish cooperation” and that “it is not always easy to judge and decide which groups should get the funding” quoted by the Hebrew newspaper.

Since Tel Aviv is understood that the criterion is “disproportionate” in relation to money that is given to Spain from other NGOs in Arab countries, according to official sources consulted by ‘Haaretz’ who, however, ensure that the original intention is to differentiate those groups “working for peace and coexistence” of those NGOs with a political purpose against the Israeli government. “

US: support for Israel ‘unshakable’

Posted in International community, Israel, Israeli occupation, Palestine, USA foreign policy, West Bank with tags , , , , , , , , on 10/06/2009 by 3071km

Date published: 10th June 2009

Source: Al-Jazeera English

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Mitchell said he was there to “talk not as adversaries in disagreement but as friends in discussion” [AFP]

The US envoy to the Middle East has reaffirmed Washington’s “unshakable” support for Israel despite public differences over the continued building of Israeli settlements.

George Mitchell, who met Israeli leaders on Tuesday, sought to reassure them that “we are two allies, two friends, and our commitment to Israel’s security is unshakeable”.

“And I want you to know we come here to talk not as adversaries in disagreement but as friends in discussion,” he told Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister.

“We recognise that the issues are complex and many. But we hope that we’re going to work our way through them to achieve the objective that we share with you, and that is peace security and prosperity throughout the region.”

Public rift

In the most public rift between the US and Israel in a decade, Barack Obama, the US president, has piled on the pressure on Netanyahu to stop settlement expansion and endorse a Palestinian state, neither of which the Israeli leader has done.

Netanyahu has said he will outline his policy on relations with the Palestinians in a speech on Sunday.Netanyahu has said so far said he is ready to hold talks with Abbas, but only focus on economic, security and political issues.

Palestinians have rejected his proposed shift of focus away from territorial issues.

Al Jazeera’s Nour Odeh, reporting from Ramallah, said that there was some concern among Palestinian officials that Mitchell would push for peace talks even if Israel refused to back down on settlement expansion and a Palestinian state.

The Palestinians say such talks would not achieve anything positive, our correspondent reported.

Mitchell, who also met Ehud Barak, Israel’s defence minister, Avigdor Lieberman, the foreign minister, and Shimon Peres, the president, is expected to hold talks with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday.

Settlements issue

The US envoy has long advocated the need for a settlement freeze as necessary for any tangible progress in peacemaking.

Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are illegal under international law [EPA]

Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s senior political analyst, said freezing the settlements would only freeze the problem between the Israelis and Palestinians, not resolve it.”It will only stop the conflict from escalating,” he said, adding that it remained to be seen whether Israel would listen to Obama since successive US leaders had made similar demands of Israeli but to no avail.

He pointed out, however, that Obama had called the settlements “illegitimate”, not just illegal, and that could mean the US taking a tougher position on the issue.

Despite the pressure from Washington, Israel remains apparently unfazed, continuing to build or expand settlements that are considered illegal internationally, arguing that so-called natural expansion cannot be stopped.

Settlement construction has doubled since Israel recommitted to halting it at the Annapolis conference 18 months ago and there are plans for 75,000 new housing units, one-third of which have already been approved.

Half a million Jews already live in settlement blocks in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

On his fourth visit to the region, Mitchell is also expected to hold meetings in Beirut, the Lebanese capital, on Thursday and Damascus, the Syrian capital, on Friday and Saturday.

Galilee communities: We’re not racist, we just don’t want Arabs

Posted in IDF, Israel, Palestine with tags , , , , , , , , , on 06/06/2009 by 3071km

Written by: Eli Ashkenazi

Date published: 5th June 2009

Source: Hareetz

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Residents of the Misgav bloc of communities in the Galilee consider themselves to be liberal, peace-loving people who support coexistence with their Arab neighbors and even root for Bnei Sakhnin, the soccer club based in a nearby Arab town considered a prominent symbol of that community. Which is why they were shocked this week when proposals raised at local council meetings to accept only applicants who shared their Zionist principles drew negative headlines and criticism for alleged racism.

“The label upsets me,” South Africa-born lawyer Michael Zetler, who founded the Misgav community of Manof in 1980 with other immigrants from what was then an apartheid state, said Thursday. “It hurt me. I am not a racist.”

Although few people will say so, the panic that spurred the submission of the controversial proposals are related to the High Court of Justice’s ruling two years ago that upheld the right of Ahmed and Fahina Zubeidat, an Israeli Arab couple, to buy a house in the exclusively Jewish community of Rakefet notwithstanding the local admissions committee’s objection.

Since then, some residents of Jewish communal settlements in the Galilee fear that the region’s substantial Arab population might seek to buy property in their communities, where the standard of living is far higher, causing Jews to move out. In some areas of the Galilee this has already taken place: Portions of the once-exclusively Jewish town of Upper Nazareth are now populated by newcomers from the nearby Arab city of Nazareth.

“I agree that there is a problem, but whether this is the right way to deal with it, I am not sure,” Zetler said yesterday. “Experience will tell. But there is a problem in the Galilee and people are challenging the political right of [Jewish] communities.”

Unpleasant to be called Lieberman

Residents of the Misgav bloc are not used to being accused of racism, and dismay at being compared to Jewish settlers in the West Bank. “It’s unpleasant and even offensive to wake up one morning and find that you’ve turned into [Avigdor] Lieberman when in fact it’s the other way around,” Alon Mayer, another resident of Manof, said, referring to the hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu chairman who proposed that Israeli Arabs be required to take an oath of loyalty to the state.

Mayer pointed out that the right-wing party headed by Lieberman garnered only 2.5 percent of the town’s vote in the last Knesset elections – far below the national average. Despite feeling on the defensive, Mayer will not apologize for supporting the demand that applicants who seek to buy property in the communal settlement should adhere to the locals’ basic cultural and political beliefs.

“When we decided to move to Manof, we sought a community that chose similar basic principles to our own, such as good education for children, culture, celebrating a Jewish communal lifestyle and protecting the environment,” a woman from Manof said. “We joined this community knowing it is founded on these values.”

Some Misgav bloc residents accuse Arab rights groups such as Adalah, which would rather Israel be defined as a binational state than a Jewish one and championed the Zubeidats’ cause in the courts, of intentionally causing provocations. “An Arab narrative exists that proclaims ‘we were not conquered, we did not desert,'” said Danny Ivri, a resident of the Misgav bloc community Yodfat. “They say ‘we were manipulated in various ways, such as through military rule and suppressing our development by placing Jewish communities between our own communities.”

Misgav bloc residents also fear increased tensions that could result from Arabs and Jews living in close proximity, and point at the occasional spurts of sectarian violence that break out in nearby non-Jewish towns between Muslims, Druze and Christians. “You can’t impose a demographic mix on us that will recreate the sort of friction between Muslims, Christians and Druze that exists in Maghar, Peki’in and Rameh,” Mayer said, referring to cities prone to periodic unrest. “High Court justices don’t understand what it’s like to live in a small community which was founded with great hardships, a community which is trying to hold on to a certain way of life.”

Zionism’s bond of blood

A few weeks ago a ceremony was held in Yuvalim, the largest town in the Misgav bloc, which exemplified its inveterate ties to the state of Israel. The regional council unveiled a promenade in memory of slain Israel Defense Forces soldier Arbel Reich, whose father was among Yuvalim’s founders.

“It was an emotional ceremony,” recalled regional council head Ron Shani. “This event was part of the community’s narrative, part of its spirit, just like the fact that we educate our children to serve in combat units. That’s what it’s like here and we’re proud of that.

“A resident who wishes to join Yuvalim will have to feel comfortable at such a ceremony, and if not he can go elsewhere, where he wouldn’t be offended,” he said.