An Arab businesswoman has announced her intention to stand in Israel's presidential election, the Jerusalem Post reported on Tuesday. If elected by the Knesset, Ahlam Khazen would be the country's first non-Jewish president. The seven-year tenure of current President Reuven Rivlin ends in July next year.
"I want to represent all the people of Israel and all the parties," explained Khazen. "I want to reinforce coexistence."
Her current competitors are the head of the Israeli Labor Party, Amir Peretz; the former Likud MK Yehudah Glick; and former Labor Party minister Shimon Shetreet. All have officially declared their intention to run for the presidency.
"For a long time, the door was closed for the Arab community," said Khazen. "It is the time to open it and make Arabs take part in politics in order to become decision makers and take larger portion of the main positions."
The owner of a series of pharmacies in the north of Israel and a medical centre in Sakhnin, Khazen is also a mother of five children and grandmother of two. "I am very enthusiastic and I have had many warm responses to my decision," she pointed out.
Asked about her political affiliation, she said that she isconsidered to be a leftist and centre moderate, but has noproblem with the right wing. "I support dialogue to bring minds and hearts closer."
There are 1,930,000 Arab Muslim and Christian citizens in Israel, around 20 per cent of the total population.