The Israel-Arab Time Bomb: Interview with Elie Rekhess

Historians in the News

The Jerusalem Report: How did the events of October 2000 impact on Israeli society?

Prof. Elie Rekhess: We must evaluate these events and their aftermath on three levels: Arab society, Jewish society and the government.

In terms of Arab society: Although the tensions had been building and the riots should not have come as a surprise to anyone, the events of October 2000 were the “Big Bang” for the Arab community in Israel. The riots and the deaths brought about a paradigm shift among the Arab intellectual and political elites, leading them to search for alternative models for their relationship with the Jewish majority in Israel.

Sensing more sharply than ever before that they are not allowed into the collective of the Jewish majority, the Arabs have determined that they should draw their own conclusions and assert themselves as an indigenous national minority. This has led to a new stage in which the Arabs are taking political initiatives and consolidating their opposition to the nature of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

What initiatives has the Arab public taken in this direction?

First, they have forcefully rehabilitated the local Palestinian historical narrative, including an emphasis on the naqba (the “catastrophe,” the Arabs’ terminology for Israel’s War of Independence). As part of their opposition to the current Israeli paradigm, they are attempting to delegitimize Israel in the international arena and to bring their problems to international forums, such as the International Criminal Court.

Some Arab elites are now calling for a consociational democracy, that is, a one-state solution similar to Belgium or Switzerland. That would essentially be a bi-national solution and would mean the end of the Jewish State as we know it. This demand is becoming part of the debate.

In this regard, we hear Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu repeatedly stating that the negotiations with the Palestinians must include recognition of Israel as the Jewish State. There are many reasons for this, some political, but it is important that this be stipulated, so that we don’t find ourselves, after we come to a final agreement with Abu Mazen [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas], facing additional national demands from within Israel as well....

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