Quarterly Israel Update I Fall 2015

Quarterly Israel Update I Fall 2015

November 20, 2015
Israel Update - Fall 2015 Facebook
Recent Escalations Government & Knesset Legislation Civil Society Public Discourse

Recent Escalations

Task Force Briefing Paper

The recent wave of attacks has heightened tensions in Israel and deteriorated relations between Jewish and Arab citizens. The Task Force produced a briefing paper, Impact of Escalations on Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel, outlining recent events, their triggers, and the impact on Jewish-Arab relations in the context of Israeli leadership, public discourse, and grassroots and civil society efforts to prevent further deterioration and restore relations.


Civil Society Responses

During the first weeks of attacks within Israel, many civil society organizations quickly issued statements condemning violence and underscoring the need for strong Jewish-Arab relations in Israel. Many were also quick to take immediate action and engage others in efforts to stem deterioration, including opportunities for dialogue, campaigns against dismissal of Arab employees, and media campaigns to counter incitement in public and on social media. In areas with municipal cooperation programs, groups of Jewish and Arab mayors also issued statements reinforcing their commitment to partnership and shared living. As the frequency of attacks slows, organizations are turning their focus to repairing deterioration and strengthening resilience of Jewish-Arab relations by expanding shared society programming.

Government Updates

Security Cabinet Outlaws Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement

On Tuesday, November 17th the government announced that the Security Cabinet has declared the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel an unlawful organization. This means that any person or group officially associated with the organization will now be subject to criminal penalties, including arrest, and the organization's property can be confiscated. Documents distributed by the Prime Minister's Office cite the group's multiyear campaign, 'Al-Aqsa is in danger," and the group's relationship with Hamas as causes for the ban. However, the head of the Shin Bet, recently said there is no evidence linking the movement to terrorist activity. Prime Minister Netanyahu said his government will continue to act against incitement and terror and "continue to invest resources to benefit the citizens of Israel, Jews and Arabs alike."

In light of the announcement, the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee called for a general strike and demonstrations across Israel. Joint List Chairman MK Ayman Odeh said this ban is "part of the de-legitimization campaign waged by Netanyahu's government against the country's Arab citizens." Knesset member Talab Abu Arar (Joint List), a member of the Islamic Movement’s less radical southern branch, said any ban on the group can be seen as an attack on Arab citizens as a whole.

Israel bans northern branch of Islamic Movement - YNET – Itamar Eichner, Hassan Shaalan, Yoav Zitun – 11.17.15
Meet Netanyahu’s Newest Public Enemy: The Islamic Movement - Haaretz - Ben Sales - 10.20.15

Ministry of Finance: Major Development Plan for Arab Society

At the end of August 2015, PM Netanyahu and Arab MKs closed on a NIS 900 million allocation to resolve a budget crisis, and agreed to jointly develop a long-term plan for closing gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens and enhancing economic integration. As of the end of October, weeks of dialogue have advanced this plan, currently titled the "System-wide Plan for Economic Integration of Arab Society by Correcting [existing] Distortions in Government Allocations." Negotiations on details are ongoing between Arab Knesset Members and Arab Mayors, Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, and the Ministry of Finance officials, prior to bringing the plan to government approval.

Government in talks to invest billions in Arab sector - Jerusalem Post – Ariel Ben Solomon – 10.29.15.

Second Annual High Tech Conference for Minorities Held in Nazareth

The Office of the Chief Scientist and the Authority for Economic Development for the Arab Sector hosted the second annual High-Tech Conference for Minorities in Nazareth. This event brought together government, private sector, civil society and high tech leadership to advance high tech participation and entrepreneurship among Israel's minorities – including attracting support from investors and mentors and increasing public awareness.


Knesset and Legislation

Opening Speeches and Jewish-Arab Relations

RivlinSpeeches opening the Knesset's Winter Session focused on current escalations and deteriorating relations between Jews and Arabs. Prime Minister Netanyahu made waves by accusing “the instigating leadership of the communist Balad party, behind whom are a train of ISIS flags,” and urging Arab citizens to "chose the right path" and "expel this divisive leadership." Opposition Leader Herzog said this is the time to "act responsibly and with maximal restraint" stressing that "we, the Knesset members and leaders of the Jewish public should implement this exactly as the Arab Knesset Members and public leaders." President Rivlin reiterated that "in these tense days, it is the duty of all of us to act to calm things down."

Knesset of despairAl Monitor - Mazal Mualem - 10.13.15.
Address by President Rivlin at the Opening of the Winter Session of the 20th Knesset - 10.12.15

Arabic Language Studies Bill Passed by Knesset

ClassroomA new bill making Arabic language studies obligatory in Jewish schools from 1st grade was preliminary approved in the Knesset on October 29th. However, the coalition conditioned its support on a return vote in the Ministerial Committee for Legislation and further ratification by the cabinet, leading to speculation that the coalition intends to bury the bill. The Bill was presented by MK Oren Hazan (Likud), co-authored by him and Education Minister Naftali Bennett. Five similar proposals from opposition parties were presented and ostensibly approved by proxy, except for one authored by MK Hanin Zoabi (Ballad/Joint List).

Could mandatory Arabic lessons for Israeli kids foster tolerance? - CSMonitor - Lonnie Shekhtman - 10.26.15

Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People Bill

PM NetanyahuPrime Minister Netanyahu instructed the Ministerial Committee on Legislation not to vote on a version of the controversial legislation informally known as the "Jewish State Bill," versions of which have been on the table for a couple of years and were party responsible for the dissolution of the last government. Instead of the vote scheduled for October 25th, Netanyahu announced the bill will be discussed in a special committee including representatives of all Coalition Parties. Some assessments in political circles are that Netanyahu’s move is designed to calm tensions within Israel’s Arab community. Others believe this was an attempt to bury the bill altogether. A separate version of the bill, proposed by MK Benny Begin (Likud), was discussed by the ministerial committee last July. It, too, is due to be submitted to the special committee when it is formed.

Netanyahu Instructs Cabinet Ministers Not to Vote on Nation-state Bill - Haaretz - Jonathan Lis –– 10.24.2015.

Civil Society Updates


Social Impact Bond Targets Dropout Rates in Computer Science

Social Finance Israel and the Rothschild Caesarea Foundation, with the University of Haifa and Tel Aviv-Jaffa Academic College, launched an 8 Million NIS Social Impact Bond program to reduced dropout rates and protraction of studies among an estimated 600 Jewish and Arab computer science students over 8 years. For first generation college students from the geographical and social peripheries, dropout rates in computer science are as high as 50%. Most Arab students in Israel are in this category and are at high risk of dropping out.



IDI's Annual Index finds growing mistrust between Jewish and Arab citizens

President of the Israel Democracy Institute, Yohanan Plesner, said this year's results “reveal the deepening divide between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel." More Jewish Israeli's reported mistrust of Arab citizens and more Arab citizens feeling they face discrimination and systemic exclusion. Still, higher numbers of Arab citizens indicated personal satisfaction with their lives this year than last and most would stay in the country even if given an opportunity for citizenship in another Western country.



INJAZ Conference Showcases Model for Development and Governance in Arab Localities

In cooperation with the Authority for the Economic Development of the Arab Sector and the OECD, INJAZ Center for Professional Arab Local Government hosted Arab municipal representatives at a conference focused on economic development in Israel's Arab localities. INJAZ presented a model for empowering local authorities in the development process while encouraging entrepreneurial management and good governance by providing inexpensive and effective ways to determine needs and create a detailed action plan.



Conference on Equal Opportunities in the Negev

On September 8th AJEEC-NISPED, the Municipality of Rahat and the Bnei Shimon Regional Council held the first Equal Opportunities in the Negev Conference in Rahat. Representatives from national government, local authorities, the private sector, civil society and community leadership came together to explore opportunities and highlight the potential in building a shared living space for both Arab and Jewish communities.



Collective Impact Initiative and President Rivlin launch Jewish-Arab Business Mentoring Project

On October 8th, President Reuven Rivlin hosted a meeting of the Collective Impact Initiative, a business leadership forum promoting integration of Arab society into the private sector. Some 50 of the top Israeli Jewish and Arab executives participated. The group launched a Business Mentoring Program at this meeting, pairing Jewish and Arab mentors and mentees who will meet monthly to resolve challenges, promote networking and shared learning.



A New Dawn in the Negev inaugurates new music and teaching fellows programs

This year sees two new initiatives for Bedouin society through A New Dawn: For the first time ever, JAFI's Masa program of Israel Teaching Fellows (ITF) will bring American Jewish volunteers to Bedouin society. Three volunteers will teach English and work with students in Bedouin schools in Rahat. The second program, Sarab, brings music education to Bedouin students to build a foundation for a Bedouin-Jewish youth orchestra of the future.



Public Discourse

Visibility into Arab discourse during recent escalations

The recent wave of attacks polarized discourse within Jewish and Arab communities in Israel about how leadership and the public should respond and what outcomes are possible or desired. Prime Minister Netanyahu and other ministers accused Israel's Arab leadership of incitement and many people openly expressed anti-Arab sentiments in public. At the same time, President Rivlin called for calm and trust-building, and a number of social media memes took off countering anti-Arab sentiments.

Within Arab society, discourse was particularly polarized and became more visible to general public than in the past. Joint Arab List Chair Ayman Odeh was lauded by many for condemning acts of violence and terror while maintaining the unity of the list despite its internal differences. But his position as head of Israel's national Arab leadership made him a focal point for internal criticism as well. In a widely reported incident, the Mayor of Nazareth, Ali Salam, interrupted a live television interview with MK Odeh to denounce Arab leaders' "escalations of tensions rather than efforts to bring calm." Salam is one of many local municipal leaders that called for continued cooperation and prioritization of pragmatic interests over the ideological triggers behind the escalations.

Among Arab condemnations of violence and calls for peace, Lucy Aharish, the well-known Arab television anchor on Channel 2 and Israel 21, became a lightning rod within both Jewish and Arab discourse when she slammed any justification for acts of terror in a television interview. She condemned Arab leaders for using religion as an excuse for violence, saying they are “destroying [young people’s] future with [their] own hands.” The video of her statements went viral, applauded by Jewish society and sparking intense debate within Arab society.

Read more about public discourse surrounding recent escalations in the Task Force briefing paper on the events and their impact on Jewish Arab relations.


Recent articles by Israeli colleagues

Arab Citizens of Israel Early in the Twenty-First Century - Institute for National Security Studies - Arik Rudnitzky - October 2015

Rabin’s legacy: A government inclusive of all citizens — not only Jews - +972 Magazine - Ron Gerlitz (Sikkuy) - 10.31.15

Ignite hope, end the violence - Times of Israel - Nasreen Hadad Haj-Yahya (Israel Democracy Institute) - 10.29.15

Collective Punishment: Arabs in Israel Face the Sack Because They're Arabs - Haaretz - Rawnak Natour and Ron Gerlitz (Sikkuy) - 10.29.15

The secret recipe for Arab-Israeli peace? Build libraries! - Jerusalem Post - Abbass Abbass (AlManarah) - 10.18.15

A different type of terrorism+972 Magazine - Samah Salameih (Arab Women in the Center) – 10.07.15

Israeli Arab towns have very few daycare centers - Globes - Samah Alkhatib Ayoub and Shirley Racahby (Sikkuy) - 9.09.15

Give young Bedouin a chanceYnet - Kher Albaz – 9.08.15

Educating for a shared society - Jerusalem Post - Amnon Be'eri Sulizeanu and
Thabet Abu Rass (The Abraham Fund Initiatives) - 9.06.15

Our Members Subscribe Visit Our Website Donate Contact

More Stories

The American Jewish Federation of Greater Metrowest NJ, a Task Force member, expressed in a press release  ...
Following the 2012 launch of its plan to enhance access to higher education for Arab students, the Israel's Council for h ...