In contrast to the Palestinian Authority (PA), which last held elections in January 2006 and again cancelled elections scheduled for May 22 this year, Israel’s vibrant democracy has produced the broadest coalition of eight political parties in its history.

Particularly noticeable about Israel’s new government is that it excludes all Jewish religious parties and includes a Palestinian Arab party, Raám, led by Mansour Abbas. While Raám recognises Israel and aims for a two-state solution to the intractable Palestinian-Israeli conflict, it adheres to the Islamic movement, which advocates for Islam in Israel and for Sharia law.

Having an Islamist party inside the government deals a decisive blow to those denigrators of Israel who accuse it of “ethnic cleansing” and “Judaization”. While Israel is inclusive of Islam and religious freedom, and even accepts a party that propagates Islam, the PA denies the right of even one Jew to live in any future Palestinian state.

Raám will serve the interests of Arab society, in particular to help improve the housing shortage for the rapidly growing Palestinian and Bedouin populations, where three new towns and cities will be recognised in the Negev region in southern Israel. Budgets for development aid and improvements to infrastructure to Arabs exceed R265bn, about 20% of SA’s total budget. In addition, billions have been pledged to fight organised crime and violence in Arab society.

Israeli Arabs play an active role in Israeli society and are well represented as high court judges, medical doctors, scientists, diplomats and even as officers in the border police and military. Arabs comprise at least 20% of the student complement at the best Israeli universities and their education levels are higher than any other Arab country.

Ben Levitas

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