Arab-Israeli Member of Knesset Jamal Zahalka calls VP Mike Pence "persona non grata." (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90) (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Jamal Zahalka
Rivlin Arab sector meeting

President Reuven Rivlin (C) and leaders at the discussion. (Mark Neyman/GPO)

While expressing hope for a shared and bright future between Jewish and Arab citizens, Israeli President Reuven Rivlin showed that Israel will not tolerate those who side with Palestinian terrorism.

President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday banned the entry of Member of Knesset (MK) Jamal Zahalka into his residence and refused to allow him to participate in a meeting between government officials and leaders of the Arab sector after Zahalka and two other Arab MK’s met with families of terrorists killed while attacking Israelis and expressed their gratitude and support.

Zahalka was initially invited to the meeting prior to his public expression of support for Palestinian terrorism. Rivlin’s office subsequently told him not to come to the meeting, but he arrived at the president’s residence in Jerusalem nonetheless, but was refused entry by the staff.

As a result, Arab MK’s Ayman Odeh, Ahmed Tibi and Masud Ganaim canceled their participation in the meeting in protest.

“While unfortunately, there are those, individual Knesset Members who seek to cynically and maliciously sabotage our ability to establish trust between us [Jews and Arabs], nevertheless we are here today because we believe in our path,” Rivlin said during the meeting, which focused on a government plan to enhance various facets of Israel’s Arab minority. “I look forward to hearing from you, Arab leaders, a clear expression of the Arab public’s contempt for such obstructive attempts. Our perseverance is being tested in difficult times. I pray that we are strong enough to persist in paving our road toward a different future – for us, for our children, for our grandchildren.”

Millions to benefit the Arab Sector

Rivlin hosted a conference together with Minister of Finance Moshe Kahlon, Minister for Social Equality Gila Gamliel and heads of the Arab local and regional authorities to address the issue of the government’s newly passed multi-million five year economic plan to advance the status of the Arab community in Israel. In total, over 170 people including representatives of Government ministries, representatives and local leaders of the Arab community in Israel participated in the meeting.

During the meeting, the key points and goals of the five year plan were presented in detail, followed by round-table discussions.

“Sitting here together, shoulder to shoulder, are elected officials and senior civil servants, leaders of Israeli Arab society, Arab mayors – leaders of Israeli society. I congratulate you all, for the hope you bring with you today,” Rivlin stated, lauding the plan as a “brave and important decision.”

Approximately 20 percent of Israel’s eight million citizens are Arabs. According to the Israeli Democracy Index, a public opinion survey project conducted last year by the Israeli Democratic Institute and the Guttman Center for Surveys, 65% of Israeli-Arabs are proud to be Israeli.

By: Max Gleber, United with Israel