Arab minority in Israel gets more radical

By Benjamin Birnbaum, The Washington Times

While confronting threats abroad, Israel faces a challenge closer to home — the increasing radicalization of its Arab minority, according to a new report.

The report notes several public opinion trends in Israel’s Arab sector since 2003 that reflect a growing alienation from the state and its Jewish majority:

• Support for the proposition that “Jews in Israel are a people who have a right to a state” has declined from 75.5 percent to 60.8 percent while support for “two states for two peoples” has plummeted from 88.8 percent to 65 percent.

• Those who list Israeli citizenship as the most important aspect of their personal identity have dwindled from 29.6 percent to 19.8 percent, while those who identify primarily with the Palestinian people have gone from 18.8 percent to 32 percent.

• The number who believe that “despite its shortcomings, the regime in Israel is a democracy for the Arab citizens as well” has fallen from 63.1 percent to 50.5 percent while the minority that supports using “all means, including violence” to achieve political ends has jumped from 5.4 percent to 13.9 percent.

The report is the latest installment of renowned Haifa University sociologist Sammy Smooha’s annual “index of Arab-Jewish relations” and shows a continuation of some hostile attitudes among the Jewish majority, including that only 66.9 percent of Jewish Israelis support preserving the right of Arab citizens to vote.

In the context of ethnic conflict, the report states, “Arabs and Jews are bound to have a basic distrust in each other.” But there are degrees of distrust. Matters have gone from bad to worse since the collapse of the peace process in 2000 and the wars and terrorist attacks that followed.

“By any account this was a lost decade for coexistence between Arabs and Jews,” Mr. Smooha said in the report. “The situation worsened and bodes badly for the future of their relations.”

Given the blood ties between Israel’s Arab citizens and their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza, Mideast experts see an important parallel.

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