Radicals are are making every effort to drag Israel's Arab citizens toward a confrontation with the Israeli establishment. If If Israel does not build a kindergarten or school in Nazareth, someone else will -- either secular extremists or Muslim fundamentalists.

Some of the leaders of the Israeli Arabs have caused tremendous damage to relations between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

These leaders are responsible for the fact that a growing number of Jews today view Arab citizens as a "fifth column" and an "enemy from within."

The Arab members of Knesset should be fighting for equality and better services for their constituents, and not spending most of their time defending Fatah and Hamas and issuing fiery statements against Israel.

Participating in a flotilla aid ship to the Gaza Strip does not help improve the living conditions of Israeli Arabs. Nor does participating in Fatah rallies held in Ramallah and other parts of the West Bank.

Some of the Arab Knesset members have obviously forgotten that they were elected by Arab citizens of Israel and not by Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

There is nothing wrong, of course, with expressing solidarity with the Palestinians there. After all, Israeli Arabs see themselves as part of the Palestinian people.

But there is a feeling among Israeli Arabs that at least half of their representatives in the Knesset care more about their Palestinian brethren in the West Bank and Gaza Strip than their constituents.

Israeli Arabs would like to see their representatives fighting to solve the many problems they are facing, such as poverty and unemployment. They would like to see Arab parliamentarians struggling for improved infrastructure and more government funds for Arab municipalities.

Israel, also, can play a role in undermining the radicals among its Arab community. The best way to weaken the radicals is by embracing the Arab citizens rather than alienating them.

Embracing Israeli Arabs would boost their confidence in Israel and drive them away from radicals who are making every effort to drag Israel's Arab citizens toward a confrontation with the Israeli establishment.

If Israel does not build a kindergarten or school in Nazareth, someone else will. And in this case, the someone else could be secular extremists or Muslim fundamentalists. If Israel does not build a community center in Baka Al-Gharbiyya, the Islamic Movement will do so.

Israel needs to start working on repairing the damage that has been caused to relations between Jews and Arabs inside the country. The PLO and Hamas have damaged relations not only between Jews and Palestinians, but also between Arabs and Jews living inside Israel.

In recent years, Israeli governments have taken a number of decisions aimed at rebuilding mutual confidence between Arab and Jewish citizens.

These decisions include allocating additional public funding to Arab municipalities, and investment in infrastructure in Arab villages and towns, as well as incorporating Israeli Arabs in jobs in the public and private sectors.

When the Arab citizens see that their state cares about them and does not relate to them as an enemy, they will keep a distance from the radicals. The radical leaders of the Arab community find fertile soil among disgruntled Israeli Arabs, especially young people who are looking for a better life and paying jobs.

The overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs remains loyal to the state even though they do not identify with its national anthem. Peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs inside Israel is not a lost cause.

Related Topics:  Israel  |  Khaled Abu Toameh receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list

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