President Reuven Rivlin addresses the gathering. (Mark Neiman/GPO) (Mark Neiman/GPO)
Reuven Rivlin


Arab representatives’ absence escalates tension and thwarts Israeli leaders’ attempt to improve the situation in the Arab sector. 

President Reuven Rivlin held a meeting with Arab mayors and heads of local authorities on Monday to address cooperation with police and to examine ways to advance common issues and concerns. Chief of Police Roni Alsheikh was present at the meeting.

While Rivlin held the meeting in an attempt at reconciliation and collaboration with the Arabs, over half of the invitees chose to boycott the meeting and heed the calls of Arab Members of Knesset to reject Rivlin’s invitation.

Rivlin expressed regret over the fact that only 20 of the 46 invitees chose to attend the meeting and seek a resolution. Remarking on the low turnout, Rivlin stressed that the meeting was “planned at the request of many citizens of the state of Israel, to discuss the state’s responsibility for the welfare of every citizen. We asked to meet with those responsible for public safety in order to discuss and consider their abilities, and the need for cooperation. I am very sorry that many of the council heads who wished to arrive did not come due to various pressures. It is a shame, because we are destined to live together and we have to find a way to promote this understanding inside all of us.”

“At times such as these, when extremist forces are raising their heads, we are reminded how easy it is to destroy, and to inflame the situation on the ground. At such moments we do not have the privilege to be entrenched out of a sense of the justness of this side or the other, we must be wise. We must join hands. We must demonstrate what leadership means,” Rivlin said.

The meeting comes after several incidents involving Israeli police and Arabs, several of which ended with fatalities.

“Our shared lives here, Jews and Arabs – this is not a question, it is a fact. Whether we want it or not, whether we will live in peace or in conflict, we will live here together. Recognition of this basic fact should guide our actions and our choices, always,” Rivlin implored the attendees.

‘Circumstances’ Make Arabs Violent

Alsheikh said he was “optimistic, even if there are those who chose to panic. You cannot have a normal life without policing – we all need policing. That’s why I’m optimistic and I’m sure we’ll bring results.”

Relating to the murderous attack on the Temple Mount, in which three Israeli Arab citizens murdered two policemen, Rivlin said he expected to hear “a clear and sharp condemnation from the leaders of the Arab community in Israel. There were just a few who made a clear and outright condemnation, and unfortunately, I was disappointed.”

Chairman of the Forum of Arab Mayors, Mazen Gana’im, remarked that “the Arab community was not born a violent society. The circumstances brought us to this.”

“Dear friends, fellow council heads, there is a responsibility on everyone, there are undoubtedly many obstacles and you [the state of Israel] can help us overcome the obstacles through employment and the economy,” said Gana’im.

By: United with Israel Staff

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