JERUSALEM (May. 23)
The Cabinet agreed unanimously today to set up a ministerial committee headed by Premier Yitzhak Rabin to study new approaches for dealing with Israeli Arabs. The decision was seen as an indication that there was a Cabinet consensus that Arab affairs should be given top priority.
The decision followed the long awaited discussion of the problems of Israeli Arabs, the first such discussion in years. The violent clashes between Israeli Arabs and security forces on March 30 strengthened the hands of those who wanted a reassessment of the government’s attitude toward Israeli Arabs.
The government decision was based on papers presented it by Tourism Minister Moshe Kol of the Independent Liberal Party, an inter-ministerial committee headed by Arab affairs advisor Shmuel Toledano, and Amos Eran, director general of the Premier’s Office.
The Cabinet also agreed to set up a committee of director generals of various ministries to be headed by Toledano. This was seen as a vote of confidence for the government’s Arab policies during the 10 years Toledano has been its advisor on Arab affairs.
FAVORABLE REACTION FROM ARAB LEADERS
The Cabinet also decided to set up a public council made up of Jews and Arabs to advise the government on Arab policy. There is a general consensus among officials who deal with Arab affairs and among Israeli Arabs who are close to the government that the policy should be one of more support for "positive" Arabs and a tougher stand toward Arab groups who oppose the State of Israel. This was in effect the line adopted by the government.
Initial reaction from Arab leaders was favorable. Mahmoud Abassi, advisor to the Minister of Education, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he supported the decision. "We want to be treated as equals just as you expect Jews in the diaspora to be treated as equals," he said.
The Cabinet decision came a day before Rabin is scheduled to meet with a delegation of Arab mayors and two days before municipal elections are scheduled to be held in seven Arab and Druze villages. The Arab mayors are expected to demand an investigation of the death of seven Arabs during the March 30 demonstrations, a move which Rabin is known to oppose.