They have gone from being close advisers to government coalitions to raving, angry extremists.
Seth J. Frantzman
16 February '10
Israel’s Arab members of the Knesset do not provide their constituents with quality representation. If one were to judge merely by their statements and antics one would conclude that they work more on behalf of Palestinians than they do on behalf of those who elected them. It is one of the great tragedies that Israel’s Arabs participate in a robust democratic system and yet their elected representatives have done them little service over the last 60 years.
According to the Knesset Web site there have been 45 Arab MKs since the establishment of the state (by contrast there have been 13 Druse and 872 Jewish MKs). Three of the Arab MKs have been women, although two of these were elected as members of Jewish parties (Hosniya Jabarra of Meretz and Labor’s Nadia Hilou). There are nine Arab members of the current Knesset. They are Hadash’s Muhammad Barakei, Hanna Sweid (Christian); United Arab List-Ta’al’s Talab a-Sanaa (Beduin), Masud Gnaim, Ibrahim Sarsour and Ahmed Tibi, and Balad’s Said Nafa (actually a Druse who defines himself as an Arab), Jamal Zahalka and Haneen Zoabi. The first Knesset included three Arabs; Tawfik Toubi (an extraordinary individual who was born in 1922 in Haifa and served in 12 Knessets as a Communist), Amin-Salim Jarjura, an Ottoman army soldier and mayor of Nazareth, and Seif e-Din e-Zoubi, who served as an MK from 1949 to 1979 in a variety of parties.
Two of the three Arabs in the first Knesset were members of the Nazareth Democratic Party, which was part of the governing coalition. The Arab party Kidma Ve’avoda served in the second and third Knessets with two members and also participated in the governing coalition. Two other Arab parties, the Democratic List for Israeli Arabs and the Agriculture and Development Party, also supported the government in the state’s early years. In the fourth to eighth Knessets (1959-1977) the Arab party Kidma Ufituah was a member of the coalition. The party Shituf Ve’ahva participated in governments and served in four Knessets. In the eighth Knesset the Arab List for Beduin and Villagers run by Hamad Abu Rabiah joined the coalition.
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