Controversial Koenig Report Continues to Generate Controversy

The controversial Koenig report continues to reverberate in the Knesset and among Arab leaders in Galilee. Yoram Aridor, of Likud, chairman of the Knesset’s Interior Committee, demanded the resignations of Mapam Ministers Victor Shemtov and Shlomo Rosen yesterday because the Mapam-affiliated newspaper Al Hamishmar published the secret report by Interior Ministry official Israel Koenig two weeks ago.

Arab mayors, meeting in Nazareth decided–but not unanimously–to call a two-hour protest strike in all Arab towns against Koenig’s recommendations aimed at reducing the Arab population in Galilee and calling for punitive measures against Arabs who do not cooperate with the authorities. The strike was set for next Tuesday.

Aridor made his resignation demands at a meeting of a Knesset subcommittee to consider illegal building activities by Arabs. He was promptly countered by demands for Koenig’s resignation from MKs Boaz Moav of the Civil Rights Party. Nissim Ellad of the Independent Liberal Party and Hammad Abu Rabi of the Bedouin faction. They insisted that Koenig be removed from his post as the Interior Ministry’s commissioner for northern Israel on grounds that he was unfit to deal with the large Arab population there.

ARAB MAYORS DIFFER ON REPORT

A majority of the Arab mayors called for a shut-down of all businesses and schools as a demonstration of Arab indignation against Koenig’s recommendations. But several mayors objected and said they would convene meetings in support of Koenig. Tawfiq Zayyad, the Communist Mayor of Nazareth, supported the strike but said that even if Galilee became predominantly Arab in population, nobody would consider separating it from Israel.

Koenig’s recommendations were prompted by the fact that Arabs now comprise nearly 50 percent of the population in Galilee. He suggested, among other things, that Arab students be encouraged to emigrate, that Israeli universities impose a quota on Arabs and that the government reduce its financial assistance to large Arab families.

Publication of the recommendations, originally drafted six months ago by Koenig and several others, raised a storm of controversy in Israel. The Interior Ministry dissociated itself from the proposals but Interior Minister Yosef Burg praised Koenig as a dedicated public servant and rejected demands for his dismissal. Premier Yitzhak Rabin, to whom a copy of the memo was addressed, said he never saw it, that it was not in line with government policy and was an internal communication of the Interior Ministry of little consequence. Koenig’s ideas, however, drew praise from Likud quarters and from the religious parties.

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