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Arab Knesset Member Joins in Discussion of Defense Cuts

August 29, 1996
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An Arab Knesset member who maintained that the policy of excluding non-Jewish legislators from sensitive discussions was discriminatory has succeeded in participating in a parliamentary committee meeting on cuts in the defense budget.

Ahmed Sa’ad, of the Hadash Party, insisted on attending Wednesday’s joint meeting of the Finance and the Foreign Affairs and Defense committees at the Defense Ministry in Tel Aviv.

Sa’ad, a member of the Finance Committee, said the agreement, which was reached in the previous Knesset and which excluded non-Jewish Knesset members from taking part in discussions on sensitive issues about state security, was racist.

“I see this as discrimination,” the freshman Knesset member told Israel Radio. “As if [Israeli-Arabs] are suspicious objects. I am an Israeli citizen, and represent a large segment of the population.”

Knesset speaker Dan Tichon acknowledged the delicate dilemma, but said there was no other choice when it comes to state security.

“You can’t sweep it under the rug, there is a problem,” Tichon told Israel Radio.

“What if there is a discussion on the flaws in a certain weapon the defense industry has developed? You can have a situation where you have to have a discussion on what exactly is flawed with this weapon, that is currently in use, in order to justify allocating the budget for development.”

Sa’ad said nothing was addressed at Wednesday’s meeting that could compromise his or Israel’s position.

“There was nothing sensitive in the figures,” he said.

But the Arab legislator’s participation in that particular meeting may have been his last. A decision was made to form a subcommittee, which would allow for discussion of defense spending cuts in a smaller forum, according to Israel Television.

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