It took the personal intervention of Premier Yitzhak Rabin this week to put an end to yet another protest strike by Arab mayors demanding increased budgets for their towns and villages.
The mayors dismantled a tent outside the Prime Minister’s Office and ended a 10-day demonstration after Rabin promised them 70 million shekels, about $29 million, in development grants, in addition to 50 million shekels, or about $20 million, in loans.
Although it was far less than the 150 million shekels in aid they requested, an almost audible sigh of relief swept the demonstration site at the Rose Garden opposite the Prime Minister’s Office.
Nevertheless, the protest cast a shadow on what appeared to be a new chapter in the delicate relations between Israel’s Arab population and the establishment.
Evolving relations are based on the government’s reliance on five Arab Knesset votes for a more comfortable margin in the Knesset, where the coalition enjoys a majority of only two seats.
In return for this support, Labor promised “equal rights” for the Arab sector, a phrase interpreted as increased budgets.
Warnings by Hashem Mahamid of the Hadash Communist party and Taleb al-Sanaa of the Arab Democratic Party that their parties would withdraw support from the government did not appear to represent a realistic political alternative, as the move might find them helping to bring back a right-wing administration.