Knesset speaker visits Umm al-Fahm


JERUSALEM (JTA) — The speaker of Israel’s Knesset visited an Israeli-Arab town to show solidarity.

Reuven Rivlin’s visit Sunday to Umm al-Fahm comes less than a month after a far-right demonstration in the city led to violence. It was Rivlin’s first official visit in the country since taking office.

Rivlin said he would not require the city’s residents to sing Israel’s national anthem.

"I can’t require non-Jews to sing ‘as long as in all hearts there beats a Jewish spirit,’ " he said. "But it is important not to incite against Israel," he added, referring to local officials statements.

In a meeting with Mayor Sheik Khaled Hamdan, Rivlin said the Israeli-Arab town is an inseparable part of Israel, despite Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s suggestion that towns such as Umm al-Fahm be swapped for West Bank communities in a final peace agreement.

"There are those who say that we need to transfer Umm al-Fahm," Rivlin said. "Umm al-Fahm is a city in Israel, past, present and future."

Rivlin, who said he did not make the visit because of the right-wing march, was accompanied by lawmakers Afu Aghbaria of the Arab Hadash Party and Uri Orbach of the religious Habayit Hayehudi Party.

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