One Israeli Arab election candidate aims to lead his community out of the margins of Israeli politics - saying their interests have been overshadowed for too long by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Atef Krinawi says he would even be willing to make an unprecedented electoral alliance with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing Likud, the party to which he once belonged.
His success or failure in the Jan. 22 election could be a bellwether for the position of the Jewish state’s 20-percent Arab minority.
Krinawi argues that many Arabs want greater integration in Israel but are eclipsed, in public discourse, by those who identify more with their kindred Palestinians and anti-Zionism.
“Arab leaders have not been making demands for fair allocation of funds, or any other demand for that matter. All they do is fight,” the 42-year-old Krinawi told Reuters.
“People are thirsty for equality. I want to enter this government and demand full rights, peacefully.”
A Haifa University survey published on Dec. 11 found that, when asked what issues topped their agenda, 47 percent of Israeli Arab respondents listed unemployment, housing and education. Only 8 percent cited the Palestinians.
“Israelis and Palestinians should be left to sort out their own problems,” said Krinawi, who in his electioneering has spoken of Israel’s Arabs and Jews as being “the same people”.
Krinawi predicts that his newcomer “Hope for Change” party will garner as many as 10 of the 120 seats in parliament - the same number now held by Arab lawmakers from three leftist parties, which have invariably sat in the political opposition.
Independent experts have doubts about Hope for Change’s prospects, but most agree that there is disillusionment among Israeli Arabs over their established politicians’ focus on pro-Palestinian activism at the cost of promoting minority equality.