Having just read about a poll taken in East Jerusalem I was truly astounded. Shocked is perhaps a better adjective. An Arab survey asked many hundreds of Arab residents in the city only one solitary question.
“If you have your choice would you choose Israeli citizenship or Palestinian citizenship?” Simply re-phrased, “would you rather be an Israeli or a Palestinian citizen?”
The response to the poll frankly was one that I could never have possibly anticipated.
The results showed that two-thirds of those questioned preferred Israeli citizenship over Palestinian citizenship. Two-thirds of the Arabs wanted to live in Israel rather than in a future Palestinian state.
I could not believe what I had read and I questioned myself …why? They hate us but they want us. Why?
Then I began to scramble over factual details of life in both societies.
In Israel the Arabs are free to vote in municipal and national elections. In Israel the Arabs have the right to criticize the government. In Israel there is freedom of the press and public media.
In Israel, working Arabs earn higher wages than they would in Palestine. In Israel, Arabs are free to condemn Israeli political decisions. In Israel Arabs have the right to publicly protest about government policies which they believe are unfair to them.
In short, in Israel, Arab citizens have all rights and benefits as Jews.
Comparing these benefits with life in Palestine, the only benefit they have in common with Israel is the right to vote in elections.
Condemning the government, publicly criticizing its policies, defaming leaders in the press, right to public anti-government protests are non-existent. Violators are subject to imprisonment, torture or worse.
As much as the Arabs of East Jerusalem hate us, there is no mass exodus from Jewish Jerusalem to Muslim Ramallah .
I think of this often when I read condemnations of our prime-minister regarding his imminent indictment for several crimes in comparison to similar actions on the part of Palestinians towards their government and its leaders.. It is like living in a different century!
While too few of our politicians, members of Knesset and leaders have the ability to speak Arabic, most of our Arab citizens, Israeli and Palestinian Arabs, can speak Hebrew and do so daily to meet their particular needs.
An Arab Muslim leader in our Knesset, a respected Arab doctor, Ahmad Tibi, has served in our Knesset since 1999 and is one of ten Deputy Speakers in the Israeli parliament. I have never heard him speak but I have been informed by many who have heard him, that his Hebrew flows mellifluously and he is a dynamic orator in the Hebrew language. Some have compared his brilliant Hebrew oratory with that of the late Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the United Nations, Abba Eban, renowned for his magnificent English oratory. His speeches were always followed by immense clapping of hands.
As of this moment, the question of Two States hangs in the balance. Barely hanging, that is, held on more by finger-nails than by hands.
The eventual fate for both Israel and the Palestinians may soon come as the secreted “Deal of the Century”. It has been foretold that neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis will be 100% satisfied with the contents of the Trump-Kushner-Greenblatt plan. The Arabs have already rejected it without learning of its contents.
By their a priori rejection, they are bound to remain semi-autonomous under Israeli security.
In the meantime, two-thirds of Palestinian Arabs in East Jerusalem prefer to remain in Israel.
The unanswered real question is “WHY”?