Co-optation, i.e., admitting “outsiders” into the ruling group or Establishment to prevent their becoming revolutionaries, is a technique recommended by Aristotle and practiced to perfection by Great Britain. Even before the nineteenth century, England’s landed aristocracy facilitated the entry into parliament of members of the ascending commercial class, which subsequently co-opted leaders of the rising working class. Hence England’s “bloodless revolution.”
This sort of thing may be seen in America. Blacks and now Hispanics are routinely co-opted into all branches of the federal, state, and municipal governments. As a consequence, these minorities, or their most prominent representatives, have a vested interest in preserving the regime that accords them the honors and perquisites of power.
Can such co-optation of Arabs work in Israel?
During the previous Knesset, Israel’s Arab parties had 10 seats in that 120-member assembly. Add three seats held by Arab members of the Labor and Meretz parties. Moreover, Arab MKs were appointed to highly sensitive committees. Hasham Mahameed (United Arab List) and Salah Tarif (Labor) served on the foreign affairs and defense committee. Meanwhile, Nawaf Masalha (Labor) was appointed deputy foreign minister!
The appointment of Mahameed is most astonishing. In January 1992, i.e., during the first intifada, Mahameed inflamed Arabs in Gaza, saying: “By the intifada we mean not only the stone, but the war…. Palestinians must fight the conquerors with all the means they have.” (For this act of incitement the then Likud-controlled Knesset, by a vote of 54 to 48, did nothing more than suspend for three months Mahameed’s parliamentary privilege of unrestricted access to all areas of the country!)
The question before us, however, is this: Would the appointment of Arabs to governmental positions imbue them with a vested interest in preserving the Jewish character of the state? To think so is to abandon reason as well as empirical facts.
Although the commercial and working classes in Great Britain were at one time politically underprivileged, they nonetheless deemed themselves Englishmen as well as Christian. Their patriotism and world-outlook were not at issue. The same may be said of Blacks and Hispanics who have entered into the mainstream American politics.
In contrast, the vast majority of Israel’s Arab citizens identify themselves as “Palestinians” or as members of the “Arab Nation.” They reject Israel’s existence, and their Arab Knesset representatives act accordingly.
For example, Taleb a-Sana praised a suicide bomber and called for more of the same. Abdul Malik Dahamshe calls Israeli Arabs convicted of murdering Jews “prisoners of conscience.” Azmi Bishara praises Hizbullah as the model for Israeli Arab resistance against Israel. Mohammad Barakei urged Israeli Arabs to participate in Palestinian violence against Israel. From these and other examples of Arab attitudes, columnist Evelyn Gordon concluded: “Thus if the statements by Arab MKs indeed reflect the opinions of their voters, the inescapable conclusion is that the overwhelming majority of Israeli Arabs actively or tacitly support violence against Israeli Jews.” (Jerusalem Post, April 16, 2002.)
Actually, they need not resort to violence. Their high birthrate, coupled to the democratic principle of one adult/one vote, will enable them gain political supremacy by purely legal and democratic means.
If anyone is in doubt of Arab attitudes and intentions, consider a 1994 symposium held by the Dayan Institute of Tel Aviv University. Participating in that conference were prominent Arab citizens who spanned the entire spectrum of political opinion, from those who were members of the Labor Party to those who were undisguised supporters of the PLO. Without an exception they declared that even if a new Arab state were to be created between Jordan and Israel, that would be insufficient because a million Arabs would still be living under “foreign” domination.
Israel’s political and intellectual elites simply refuse to take these Arabs seriously. They believe, or desperately want to believe, that Arabs can be bought by the perks of public office—a pretty insult to Arab-Islamic civilization.
Now, if co-optation has not altered the hostility of Israeli Arabs toward the Jewish state, if their political freedom and educational and economic opportunities—unequaled in any Arab country—have not made them loyal citizens, what can be expected of Arabs in an independent Palestinian state?
Prime Minister Sharon repeatedly expresses his belief in “peaceful coexistence” between Jews and Arabs. This “politically correct” statement, suitable for foreign audiences, psychologically disarms Jews, incites Arab contempt and violence, and thereby prolongs the Arab war against Israel.
If co-optation has not pacified Israeli Arabs, those who would grant Palestinian Arabs an independent state of their own are either mindless or committed to Israel’s demise as a Jewish state. Surely this cannot be said of Israel’s prime minister?
After all, Israeli pundits are pleased to call Ariel Sharon a “pragmatist,” or they are satisfied to say he has been “bushwhacked.” By leaving it at that, these pundits reveal the shallowness of their intellectual and moral standards. But perhaps that’s precisely what underlies the idea of co-opting Arabs into Israel’s Establishment?