Israeli Arab Predicts Labor Will Win Next Elections with the Help of the Country’s Arab Electorate

An Israeli Arab who is a member of Labor Party policy-making bodies, predicted here today that Israeli Arabs will be the group that provides Labor with the margin needed for a victory in the next Knesset elections.

Nawaf Massalha, who is also a member of the executive bureau of Histadrut, said Israeli Arabs, who comprise 16 percent of the electorate, gave the Labor Alignment three Knesset seats in the 1981 elections and could give it 10-11 seats in the next elections which he predicted would be held next year.

Answering questions at a breakfast sponsored by Foreign Policy magaine, Massalha conceded that 60 percent of the Arab voters voted for the Communist Party in 1981. But he noted that the Arabs provided Labor with three seats, which was a gain of two from the 1977 elections when Likud come to power.

He said the Communists, at the same time won four seats, a loss of one from the 1977 elections. He said that proved Labor could take votes away from the Communist Party. Other Arab votes in 1981, he said, helped win seats for other non-Communist, anti-government parties.

REJECTS PURELY ARAB PARTY

The 40-year-old native of Nazareth rejected a purely Arab party. He stressed that change in Israel “must come from Arabs and Jews working together.” Massalha said a Labor victory is needed to end what he called the policy of “hard violence” by the Likud government on the West Bank and Gaza and to oppose the eventual annexation of those territories by Israel.

He said there is a need to end the Likud economic policies as well which, he charged, caused high inflation and unemployment which have hurt the Arab population, 80 percent of whom are workers.

Massalha maintained that Israel’s Arabs are moving ahead in the struggle for full equality in Israel. He said he believes that Israeli Arabs will continue to comprise 15-20 percent of the population. But if the West Bank and Gaza are annexed, Arabs may come to constitute half of Israel’s population by the end of the century. He said they would never be given full equality. Israeli Arabs would remain second class citizens and the Palestinian (West Bank-Gaza) Arabs third class citizens.

Massalha said that as a member of the Labor Party he supports its position against a Palestinian state. But most Israeli Arabs support some type of Palestinian state with peaceful ties to Israel, he said. He rejected an assertion that Israeli Arabs are a “fifth column.” He noted, however, that “it is hard to be an Israeli Arab” because they are torn between “our people and our nation.”

He said the Palestine Liberation Organization is accepted by the Palestinians on the West Bank, although not necessarily their hard line policies. He blamed this on the refusal by both Labor and Likud governments to allow political development in those areas since 1967.

At the same time, he pointed out that when the PLO sought to moderate its views, with Yasir Arafat meeting with King Hussein of Jordan, because it was not elected democratically, Syria was able to prevent the PLO from moving toward negotiations.

Massalha stressed, however, that there can be “no peace in the Middle East without Syria.” He conceded that a resolution on the Golan Heights would be a tough problem.

Massalha is in the U.S. on behalf of the International Center for Peace in the Middle East of which he is a co-chairman. The group is scheduled to hold a meeting in Jerusalem in November which is expected to be attended by some prominent American Jews.

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