Every citizen of Israel is familiar with the ten years of Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu’s leadership as head of the Likud right-wing party serving as the elected Prime Minister of Israel through the highs and lows of Israeli politics. No one, not even his many opponents, can take away the merits of so many of his achievements.
He has brought Israel out of seclusion, traveling the continents of the world to bring the message of Israel to leaders and people in distant lands.
He has opened diplomatic relations with many countries on the African continent, warmed relationships with countries in South America, most recently with Brazil, and he has visited in Middle East and Gulf State Muslim countries where no Israeli foot had trod previously.
He was cordially welcomed by Muslim kings, sheiks, imams, military officials and members of government in Arab countries which do not as yet have diplomatic relations with our Jewish State.
Tirelessly he has made one-day round trip visits to far- away lands such as India and Russia.
I think there are not many voices in Israel which could genuinely find fault with his political achievements. The one great fault which many Israelis share, myself included, is the alleged criminal acts of bribery and corruption for which he may soon be indicted, even before our April 9th elections.
In spite of everything, there is little doubt of his political strength and achievements leading to a popular belief that “there is no better leader than Netanyahu”.
On the other side of the bench in the Knesset sits elected members of the Joint Arab party led by a highly educated and often-convincing orator, Dr. Ahmad Tibi, leader of the Arab Ta’al party.
Dr. Tibi was graduated in the 1990’s from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Medical School as a practicing gynecologist. He is regarded as one of the finest medical doctors in his field in Israel. But he had reduced his medical practice in order to enter the Israel Knesset (Parliament) as the leading voice of Arab representation.
Obviously, as a Palestinian-born Muslim in the village of Taiybeh, he is vehemently anti-Zionist. That is to be expected. The Palestinians do not love us and we, in turn, have little love for them.
A few years ago, Yair Lapid, a prominent writer and candidate for Prime Minister in the April 9th elections said of Ahmad Tibi “the most moving speech commemorating Holocaust Day in 2010 in the Knesset was given by the Arab member of the Knesset, Dr. Ahmad Tibi.”
Lapid remarked on channel 2 of Israeli TV “our Knesset elders claim that it might have been the best speech ever given in the Israeli Parliament”.
Ahmad Tibi’s complaints are almost completely true. Arab communities are in disrepair. Schools are lacking proper facilities, infrastructure is deteriorating, medical care is insufficient, and the hopes of the Arab population diminish more frequently. And fading hope often results in physical violence.
I do not have the figures to demonstrate the inequality between Arab and Jewish communities. As an exaggerated example, if the budget for Jewish schools is 3 million shekels a year, it may be less than 1 million shekels for Arab schools.
While Israeli roads and highways are under frequent repairs as needed, the roads and pathways of Arab communities are still primitive and funds for repairs are minimal.
It is true that Palestinian citizens of Israel do not share equality with Jewish citizens. No honest person would doubt it. Although our Declaration of Independence proclaims and guarantees full rights of equality to all citizens of the State of Israel, in practice, other than the freedom to vote in municipal and national elections, our Israeli Arab citizens are not equal.
The very recent and controversial Nation-State Law maliciously mistreated the Arabs and the Druze minorities of Israel by changing a 100 year old law making Hebrew, Arabic and English the three official languages of the State. This law was enacted under the British Mandate in 1918. After 100 years, Arabic has been removed as an official language and given only a special status.
Dr. Tibi is the voice of our Arab citizens demanding revision in the new law and restoring the Arabic language to its historical and rightful place.
Hopefully, under the guidance and leadership of a new Prime Minister we may see a change for the better.
Two leaders… Bibi for the Jews and Tibi for the Arabs… have done much to improve lives of their respective peoples. But much more needs to be done.
While Dr. Ahmad Tibi will continue to lead the Ta’al party in the Knesset, at this time it is unsure if Bibi Netanyahu will continue his fifth term as Prime Minister and head of the Likud Party.
A fresh voice and fresh ideas are desperately needed by a Jewish elected leader.
For me, I hope it will be Benny Gantz. With Benny and Tibi we may yet see equality for all.