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Q&A: Why only 51 percent of Israelis support equal rights for Arab minority

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The original paradigm of relations was based on a mix of civic and individual rights, integration, and quasi-autonomous rights in education and religion. But they faced discriminatory government policies, says Elie Rekhess, former adviser to the Israeli government on Israeli Arab affairs.

"It's a restricted equality, because in certain areas Jews and Arabs are not equal, emanating from the fact that Israel is a Jewish state and there is no such thing as an Israeli nationality that is all inclusive," says Professor Rekhess, now at Northwestern University in Chicago. "The paradigm is falling apart."

Arabs make up much of Israel's underclass. They are underrepresented in government as well as business. Arab parties have never been part of the ruling coalition government. Not until 2004 was an Arab appointed to a permanent spot on the Supreme Court. And only in 2006 did Israel see its first Arab minister in government.

Among the findings of the IDI survey released this week:

  • Only 51 percent of Israelis said that Jewish and Arab citizens should have equal rights.
  • 62 percent of Jewish respondents said that Israeli Arabs' views on security and foreign affairs should not be considered so long as Israel is in conflict with the Palestinians.
  • 53 percent said the state has the right to encourage Arabs to emigrate.
  • 33 percent supported putting Arabs in internment camps if war breaks out.

Are Israeli Arabs loyal to Israel?

Arab citizens pay taxes to Israel, send their children to Israeli schools, and vote for the Israeli parliament. But they also sympathize with Palestinians' struggle for an independent state and an end to Israel's military occupation.

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