Cablegate: Israeli Arabs Split Over the Merits Of

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.





E.O. 12958: N/A

This message is sensitive but unclassified. Please protect

1. (SBU) Summary: The Arab League is hosting a conference
on ties between the Arab world and the Arab citizens of
Israel in Cairo April 26-27. Arab League Deputy Secretary
and PLO Representative Said Kamal, along with mid-level
diplomats from the Arab League countries, arranged the
program, which will include an open discussion on
strengthening relations between Israeli Arabs and the wider
Arab world as well as lectures by Israeli-Arab participants
on the social, political, and economic issues they face.
Twenty-five Israeli-Arab politicians and academics will
attend, but the community is divided in its view of the
conference: supporters claim it will prove that Israeli Arabs
have alternate venues outside of Israel in which to address
their concerns, detractors fear it will drive a deeper wedge
between the Arab community and Israeli society as a whole.
End summary.

2. (SBU) Two years after unsuccessfully petitioning the
Arab League to allow an Israeli-Arab representative to attend
League meetings as an observer, former MK and Arab Democratic
Party leader Abd Al-Wahab Darwashe will lecture to League
diplomats this week on the historic connections between
Israeli Arabs and the Arab states at the "Strategic
Convention for Connections Between the Arab World and the '48
Arabs", which takes place at Cairo University April 26-27.
Darwashe is one of 25 Israeli delegates to the conference,
including MKs Mohammed Barakeh and Ahmed Tibi (Hadash), Azmi
Bishara (Balad) and Talab a-Sana (United Arab List), as well
as one of the leaders of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ibrahim
Sarsour. Academics and NGO heads will also participate, and
will follow Darwashe's talk with lectures about participation
in the political process, land and water concerns of the
Negev Bedouin, and the tension in the Islamic movement
between religious obligation and Israeli law. The conference
will conclude with an open discussion between Israeli and
League participants on the goals and means of "strategic
connections" between Israeli Arabs and the wider Arab world.

3. (SBU) Although greater recognition from the Arab League
has been on the wish list of certain Israeli-Arab leaders
such as Darwashe for a long time, contacts state that not
everyone within the Israeli-Arab sector sees this conference
as the right step to take. They point to a disagreement
among politicians, academics, and NGO leaders over whether
the conference will strengthen the Israeli-Arab agenda within
the wider Arab world or, conversely, weaken the Israeli-Arab
bargaining position in wider Israeli society. Dr. Hanna
Swaid, chairman of the Arab Center for Alternative Planning
and former mayor of Eliaboun, told us that most Israeli Arabs
do not want to involve themselves with the "collection of
dictatorships" that is the Arab League. He believes that
most Israeli Arabs see themselves as part of Israel and
prefer to deal directly with Israeli Jews and the GOI in
order to address their socioeconomic issues. He said
anything that creates a real or perceived hostile separation
between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs -- such as this
conference -- only gives the GOI an excuse to treat Israeli
Arabs as second-class citizens.

4. (SBU) On the other hand, Dr. Thabit Abu Ras, Ben Gurion
University professor and co-director of the Shatil
Organization for Equality, told us he will attend the
conference because it is important for the GOI to see that
"Israeli Arabs will be heard, if not in the Knesset then by
the Arab states." He believes that the participation of the
MKs from the "four major Arab parties" proves that most
Israeli Arabs want to be recognized as Arabs in the wider
Arab world and address their problems of status in that way.
Co-chair of the Sikkuy human rights organization Shuli Dicter
concurred that this feeling is widespread among a small but
growing stream who believe it is not possible for Israeli
Arabs to gain equality as Israelis, and who wish to create a
new national identity separate from both Israelis and
Palestinians. He stated that a similar disaffection is held
not only by Islamists but also by more mainstream
organizations like Ittijah, a long-standing umbrella NGO
covering a wide range of issues.

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