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Jewish-Arab Relations in Israel

The relations between Jews and Arabs in Israel inevitably reflect the ongoing confrontations between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and neighboring Arab countries. The outbreak of the Second Intifada in the West Bank and Gaza Strip in September 2000, the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, and recent military operations in Gaza, heightened the tension between the two sectors. Each side feels they have something to fear from the other side. For Jews, major issues include: the high natural growth rate in the Arab sector, which one day may overwhelm the Jewish majority; Israeli Arabs' demand to "reopen the Nakba files" and for Israel to assume responsibility for the loss of Palestinian life and land; and delegitimization of the State of Israel from within. Arabs are concerned about: population transfers under an agreement between Israel and the future Palestinian state; encroachments on their civil rights; and police violence against Arab citizens. In addition, Israeli Arabs must contend with less funding for their schools and neighborhoods and racism from Jewish citizens.

The relationship between Jewish and Arab Israelis has always been fraught, but their desire to live together in a democracy has never wavered. The Peaceworks Foundation found through analysis of survey data taken from 1976 through 2009 that both Arabs and Jews are committed to coexistence and democracy. In fact, according to a study undertaken by Sammy Smooha, Professor of Sociology at the University of Haifa, in early 2006, 93% of the Arabs and 78% of the Jews expressed willingness for mutual fraternal relations. In another 2006 survey by the Israel Democracy Institute, 60% of Jews supported or strongly supported full equality of rights between Jews and Arab citizens of the state. However, Arab and Jewish scholars concur that three cumulative conditions must be met in order to maintain stable co-existence between Jews and Arabs in Israel: first, progress in the peace process that will lead to the establishment of a Palestinian nation state alongside Israel; second, a policy that would grant full equality to Arab citizens; and third, mutual acceptance of the civil and national legitimacy of all the groups in the state.

In 2010, the Chairman of the Council for Higher Education's Planning and Budgeting Committee, Professor Manuel Trajtenberg, signed a multi-year agreement with the Ministry of Finance allocating NIS 305 million towards the development and implementation of a strategic, long-term approach to enhancing accessibility of higher education for the Arab community. This approach was formalized into a Six-Year Plan that was implemented as a pilot over the last two years and is expanding to national scale this academic year.

Courtesy of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arab Issues and the United States Institute of Peace