JERUSALEM (Jul. 21)
For the first time in the history of the Jewish State, two political factions have adopted a formal policy of apartheid against Arabs.
The two factions, recently elected to the local council of Kiryat Arba, reached a coalition agreement which provides for the mass dismissal of Arab workers employed by the municipality, and discourages the development of local plants whose owners would not commit themselves against the hiring of Arabs.
Legal experts immediately questioned whether the coalition agreement was legally sound, inasmuch as it supported open discrimination on a racial basis. Previously, the high court has ruled that no public authority could practice racial or religious discrimination. Premier Shimon Peres today ordered Attorney General Yitzhak Zamir to investigate the legality of the coalition agreement.
The agreement was signed over the weekend between the United Kiryat Arba list and the Kach list, comprising supporters of Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kach won 22 percent of the votes in the elections and thus became a key to any coalition. Personal differences between the local Likud faction and the United Kiryat Arba list prevented the two factions from reaching an agreement.
ELEMENTS IN THE POLICY
Under the new coalition agreement, the council would aspire toward total Sabbath observance, although some 40 percent of the local residents are secular. Furthermore, the council would fire the 12 gardeners it employs and would instead hire a Jewish contractor who would commit himself to employing only Jews.
Another article in the agreement asserts that any new factory in the town would receive the necessary recommendations from the local council providing that it commits itself to employing only Jews. The existing plants in Kiryat Arba employ dozens of Arab workers.
Shalom Wach, the outgoing mayor and head of the United Kiryat Arba list, said the decision to fire the Arab employes was taken because the Interior Ministry had ordered the council to cut its staff and “we agree that Jews must be given preference” when it comes to employment. There are 17 unemployed Jews living in Kiryat Arba. It was unclear how many Arab workers would be affected.
Elyakim Haetzni, one of the leaders of the United Kiryat Arba list, said the agreement with Kach was dictated by 22 percent of the voters who supported the party.
However, he said, those voters did not share Kahane’s views but that they voted for Kach as a measure of protest against the government’s policy which, he said, enabled the release of 600 terrorists from Israeli jails, allowed the universities to incite terrorism, permitted the appearance of pro-PLO newspapers in Jerusalem and the control of the PLO over the refugee camps. “We do not boycott Kahane,” said Haetzni. “He is our political rival — but our enemy is the PLO.”
DISMISSED WORKERS COULD APPEAL
It was assumed that an Arab worker who would be laid off by the municipality because of racial considerations could fight the dismissal by appealing to the Supreme Court. One other venue which was expected to be explored was legal action by the government against the council, perhaps by means of stopping all financial aid to the local council, or perhaps even disbanding the council.
Previously, the high court has said no public authority could practice racial or religious discrimination. In the past, the court abolished actions taken by local municipalities on the grounds that they were of a discriminatory nature. The court also ruled that this principle also applied in the administered territories. The Civil Rights Movement Knesset faction said it would provide legal assistance to any Arab who would be affected by the coalition agreement.