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Israel: will Arab municipality heads deal with new far-right government?

November 15, 2022 at 11:18 am

Israeli deputy Itamar Ben-Gvir in Nablus, West Bank on July 20, 2022 [Enes Canlı/Anadolu Agency]

Will the heads of Arab-run local municipalities in Israel deal with far-right ministers such as Itamar Ben-Gvir if, as predicted, he is a minister in the new coalition? This was the question posed by Al-Resalah, given the fears that meetings with Ben-Gvir could be very tense, given the far-right attitudes towards, for example, Bedouin villages “unrecognised” by the Israeli government.

Ben-Gvir is the leader of Otzma Yehudit, and is expected to be Israel’s new Minister of Public Security with responsibility for the police and prison services. He is expected to ask for his ministry to be given responsibility for the unrecognised Arab villages in the Negev, rather than the Interior Ministry.

If this happens, how will Arab municipal leaders deal with such an extremist? According to one Arab municipality head, Mudar Yonis, his peers in local authorities across Israel deal with all Israeli governments no matter what their political leanings are in order to get the best for the occupation state’s two million Arab citizens.

“This was the case in the past, and I think it will remain the same going forward,” he said. “But I think there are some strange figures in the upcoming Israeli government, so this issue needs some deliberations.”

Yonis pointed out that he and his colleagues know Ben-Gvir’s opinions. “However, we will almost certainly deal with the government whether it is right-wing, centre or left-wing.”

READ: Ben-Gvir makes coalition membership conditional on death penalty for Palestinians

The head of Rahat municipality, Fayez Abu Sohaiban, said that the Arab municipalities know who they will work with. “We might be obliged to deal with the new government as we do not have any option, and we didn’t choose it. We deal with prime ministers no matter what their political views are.”

Abu Sohaiban added that he and his fellow municipality heads will discuss how to approach this issue, though, because, “It will be difficult to sit with a minister who hates us.”