Here’s an interesting postscript to the first installment of the new Forward series “Imagining Two States for Two Peoples.” In the article, published yesterday, we consider Palestinian claims about the difficulties that settlements cause for Palestinians trying to travel around the West Bank. Now, settlers are making the same claim about the new Palestinian city of Rwabi.
Rwabi, just north of Bir Zeit, has been under construction for two months, and will be home to around 25,000 Palestinians. It is a project of a Qatari-based firm called Bayti.
While the international community is, for understandable reasons, fixated on the population balance between Jews and Arabs in Jerusalem, a demographic war is being fought in a lower-profile part of Israel — the north.
Zionist groups have long been encouraging residents of central Israel and new immigrants to move to the north in a bid to strengthen the Jewish presence. And there is a similar interest in laying roots by some Arabs. Influxes of Arabs in to certain northern towns, such as Carmiel are taken by many locals as evidence of this.
Two years ago, a Knesset panel discussed the possibility that Israel’s Arabs — who are currently exempt from any national service — could perform civic service in schools, hospitals and other non-political institutions that need volunteers. The polling at the time was fascinating in revealing a gulf between leaders and their constituents. Three quarters of Israel’s young Arab citizens favored the idea, while 90% of their political leaders opposed it.
Now, the percentage of young Arab citizens who favor the idea has fallen to 54%, a new Haifa University Survey indicates. So what has happened over the last couple of years to change the figure? It would seem that the opposition of the leaders has rubbed off on the general Arab population. When the idea was mooted back in February 2008, Arab leaders made their objections very clear. “Anyone who volunteers for national service will be treated like a leper and will be vomited out of Arab society,” Jamal Zahalka, a lawmaker with the Balad party declared at a rally.
Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister stopped just short of calling J Street “anti-Israel” at a February 16 meeting of American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem.
“The thing that troubles me is that they don’t present themselves as to what they really are,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon in an address to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “They should not call themselves pro-Israeli.”
In this financial climate, investments are pretty unpredictable. In fact, one could say — God knows what is a safe investment. So why not get God on your side?
That is exactly what the Harel Group, Israel’s largest investment and insurance company, has attempted to do. Earlier this month, Haredi media report, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv, Israel’s most influential authority on religious law, gave his blessing to an investment track in the Harel Gilad pension fund.