WASHINGTON (Oct. 21)
Ariel Sharon, Israel’s minister of commerce and industry, said Wednesday that unless Israeli Arabs are willing to serve in the army and pay their share of the taxes, as do other Israelis, they should not be permitted to vote for the Knesset.
The Likud leader emphasized that he was making this proposal because Israeli Arabs, who will number one million by the year 2000, now “are dictating what government will be” in Israel since they provide the deciding margin between the almost evenly split two major political blocs, Labor and Likud.
Sharon made this argument as he gave his vision of what Israel should be by the end of the century in a talk sponsored by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank. He had been in Washington to serve as co-host of a two-day conference marking the second anniversary of the Free Trade Area agreement between Israel and the United States.
The controversial former defense minister took pains to stress that he was not talking about expelling Israel’s Arabs as has been proposed by Kach leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. He said that as a native-born Israeli “I have been living with Arabs all my life” and expects to continue doing so doing so.
EQUAL RIGHTS, BUT OBLIGATIONS
Sharon stressed that Israeli Arabs should have equal rights, but they must also fulfill the duties and obligations of other Israeli citizens. He noted that there are 80,000 Jews who live in Israel, but who are not citizens and thus cannot vote for the Knesset. Arabs who do not serve in the army should also be inhabitants with “everything open” to them except the right to vote for the Knesset.
He added that Israelis had made the “mistake” of telling Israeli Arabs that “we understand that you are part of the Arab nation” and thus do not want to serve in the army.
But, Sharon said he tells Israeli Arabs that “you are part of the State of Israel, your president is Chaim Herzog, your leader is not (Palestine Liberation Organization chief Yasir) Arafat, your leader is the prime minister of Israel.”
Sharon made his proposal, though in the context of what he sees as a solution of the Palestinian problem in which Israel would control all the territory west of the Jordan River and a Palestinian state would be in what is now Jordan. He noted that Palestinians now make up most of the population of Jordan, as well as a majority of its parliament and many of its governmental leaders.
ISRAEL RESPONSIBLE FOR SECURITY
Israel and Jordan would negotiate the conditions of the Arabs in Judaca, Samaria and Gaza, Sharon said. But he stressed that Israel alone would be responsible for the internal and external security of the West Bank and Gaza.
However, there should be as little interference as possible with the everyday life of the residents of the territories, Sharon said.
The only “practical” way to achieve such a settlement is through the autonomy plan outlined in the Camp David agreements, Sharon said. “That is the only way that I believe that you can move forward,” he said.
Sharon said that once Israel and the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza learn “how we can live together,” the Palestinian Arabs could serve as “a bridge between ourselves and the Arab world.”