Aatef Karinaoui, a 42-year-old Bedouin Muslim resident of the city of Rahat, is running for the Knesset this year upon creating a new Arab political party titled El Amal Lat’gir, which means Hope for Change in Arabic. Both Karinaoui and his new political party are pro-Israel and are vehemently against the activities of current Arab Knesset MKs such as Haneen Zoabi, who participated in the May 2010 Gaza Flotilla; Ahmed Tibi, who lead a delegation of Arab MKs to Libya when Qaddafi was still in power; and Ibrahim Saroor, who denounced the American “murder” of Osama Bin Ladin. As Karinaoui declared, “We need an Arab spring here in Israel against our own Arab leaders.”

Karinaoui accused the present Arab MKs of lying about the supposed mistreatment of Israeli Arabs. He told the Times of Israel, “Arab Members of Knesset are setting a fire. They feed off the politics of division and don’t represent the Arab public.” Karinaoui complained that current Arab Knesset members care more about the Palestinians and the greater Arab world than their own voters. He claims that Israeli Arabs have pressing issues related to poverty, the educational system, land issues, etc. but all of these problems have been neglected by the current Arab Knesset members, whom he asserted came to power via electoral fraud. His new party will focus on Israeli Arab domestic issues.

Karinaoui’s views related to Israel and the Jewish people are quite refreshing. He told the Times of Israel, “We want to prove that we are loyal and faithful citizens. I’m a proud Arab and a proud Israeli too. I’m not a Palestinian. Look at Syria, look at Egypt, look at Libya, look at Tunisia and look at Bahrain; the problem is not Israel, it’s the Arabs.” He continued, “I have no problem with the Star of David on the flag or with the national anthem –- no problem at all. Israel is a democracy, and I respect every country that is a democracy. Israel did not expel me. I kept my land. I have the right under the law to do whatever I want to do, even to become prime minister. We Arabs need to thank G-d that we live in this democratic country.”

Karinaoui believes that all of the problems that Israeli Arabs deal with can best be dealt with by rapprochement. He does not believe that Israeli Arab political issues such as contested land ownership can be solved by protest rallies, violence, and being hostile. Furthermore, Karinaoui declares, “Israel is a wonderful place for Arabs. It is the only democracy in the Middle East. Look at what the Arabs are doing to each other all over the Middle East. We don’t want to focus on that anymore here. People want to advance within the State of Israel.” Unlike other Arab leaders, Karinaoui wants for Jews to stay in Israel because he supports having a multi-cultural environment and believes that if Jews left, the country would become like Syria.

Karinaoui previously had run for the Knesset in 2006 as the 67th slot on the Likud Party list. He had joined the Likud Central Committee in 1995. Within a year of joining the Likud, he became an adviser to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Later on, he worked with Nathan Sharansky at the Ministry of Interior and Tzahi Hanegbi at the Environmental Protection Ministry. In addition to this, he is the chairman of a non-profit organization called Social Equality and National Service in the Arab Sector, which encourages Arab Israelis to serve the State of Israel. Karinaoui himself served in the IDF and continues to do reserve duty to date. He also organizes computer centers in Arab cities across Israel as part of the Finance Ministry’s Lehava Project.

Reported by: Rachel Avraham for United With Israel

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