If the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip want self-determination, can the Palestinian Arab citizens of Israel be far behind? This is the disturbing question for Israelis as they anxiously observe the growing radicalization of Israel's half- million-strong Arab population.
The Camp David debate over Palestinian self-rule in the occupied territories has increased self-awareness among ISraeli Arabs, especially the younger generation, and exacerbated their grievances.
At the same time, a chasm has grown within Israeli Jewish society, too. In the past several months, for instance, a burgeoning Jewish campus right wing has clashed violently on several campuses with Israeli Arab students supported by young left-wing Jews.
The government has reacted sharply to the Israeli- Arab stirrings. Its latest move has been to introduce a new and controversial bill that would forbid any show of solidarity or sympathy with a terrorist organization by means of signs, slogans, flags, or anthems.
The specific targets of the bill are Israel's 21,000 Arab university students whose campus organizations in recent months have demonstrated in sympathy with West Bank Palestinian leaders. Many of them are taking their lead from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
"The real revolution in Israeli Arab feeling came after the Yom Kippur War in 1973," says Ammon Lynn, a member of Parliament who recently quit the ruling Likud Party in protest over the Begin government's "lack of any policy at all" toward the Israeli Arabs. "After 1973 they [the Israeli Arabs] saw [PLO leader] Yasser Arafat with a gun getting support from all over the world."
But Mr. Lynn, -- for many years a Labor Party official in charge of Arab policy in the Galilee heartland of Israeli population -- admits that the problem goes deeper. "The Jewish community in Israel has a goal to strive for -- the building of the Jewish state. But the Arab community has no goal, unless they identify with the goal of the Arab states, which is against Israel."
Israeli Arab youth suffer from lack of integration into Israeli society, according to observers here.
At the end of 1971 there were only about 600 minority university graduates in Israel. Today 2,100 Arabs attend Israeli universities. But this still represents only 3 percent of the country's university students, while 15 percent of the population is Arab.
In addition, job prospects for Arab graduates are often bleak. This is especially true in the sciences, where most industrial jobs are security-related. Almost half the Arab graduates wind up teaching.
"I tried to help one Arab engineer from the Technion (Israel's top engineering school) but in the end -- teaching," recalls a Hebrew University professor.
Some government members now favor the introduction of compulsory nonmilitary national service for Israeli-Arab youth -- parallel to required Army duty for Jews -- in order to integrate them more fully into Israeli life. But others fear this could result in the creation of an organized Arab network.
As their numbers have grown, and as their political identity been molded by contacts with Palestinian students on the West Bank, Israeli-Arab students have organized on their own.
Arab student committees now exist on every Israeli campus. Most of them are controlled by supporters of the Israeli Communist party, Rakah.
"In my opposition to discrimination, land, expropriation [by Israel from ISraeli-Arabs], and occupation I am an extremist," says Azmi Bishara, Rakah leader and former head of the Hebrew University Arab student committee. "My ways of waging the struggle are moderate only because in the present context they are more effective. . . ."
But in the wake of the Camp David accords, a more militant Israeli-Arab movement has grown up, with affiliates in Galilee villages. Now in control of the Hebrew University Arab student committee, it totally rejects the existence of the state of Israel. Instead id adopts the "rejectionist" Marxist PLO call for a "democratic secular state in all Palestine."
Most Israeli universities, uncertain how to handle the increasing tensions, have banned political demonstrations altogether. Tens of Arab students have been suspended for demonstrating on several campuses, including Hebrew University. But two right wing Jewish student leaders there, one of the son of right-wing Knesset firebrand Geula Cohen, were recently cleared of charges of violently assaulting, Jewish and Arab students with chains last December, due to conflicting testimony.
The government has also issued a military order -- a still legal hangover from regulations of the British mandate -- restricting the movements of four Arab student leaders and four village radicals.
The opposition Labor Party has denounced the government's bill to penalize public PLO supporters as "undemocratic." Knesset member Linn, on the other hand, backs the ouster of student PLO supporters, but calls for immediate placement of 2,000 Israeli-Arab graduates in government ministries "to break the pressure left by Arab youth." He also calls for substantial economic development of the Arab sector.
Can the ticking clock of Israeli-Arab politicization be turned back? "It may be very difficult to correct the mistakes," says Mr. Linn, "but the alternative is a civil war between Jews and Arabs inside Israel."