The conversation started when Emil came to the office to upgrade my computer. “Ahalan u’Sachlan” I greeted him with my basic Arabic and soon recognized an intelligent young man as open to conversation as I.
Sitting down to a Turkish coffee, I learned that Emil completed an upper graduate degree in political science, so I asked what he thinks of Israel’s emerging right-wing government coalition that was elected under Benjamin Netanyahu. After all the “bad news” I’ve heard about his “extreme” right-wing partners and how Israeli Arabs are angry and protesting even to the UN, I was curious to hear it from the horse’s mouth, as they say.
I was surprised by this young Arab’s response.
“Netanyahu is a good thing for the country,” insisted Emil. “He is stable and straight forward. You know what you are getting with Bibi.”
Israel Today: So you’re not concerned about his right-wing coalition partners, some of whom are labeled as “extremists”?
Emil: Not at all. Bibi knows how to handle these guys. He is not going to let the government be taken over by extremists on one side or the other. We’ve watched him for too long to know that Netanyahu is wise and doesn’t let anybody push him around. The country needs his kind of stability.
Some of these right wingers like Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are calling for what some see as anti-Arab policies. As an Arab Israeli, you’re not concerned?
First of all, I do not like to judge people before we see who and what they are about. We need to let these guys who come from the far right have a chance, and see what they do. There is no reason to already get all bent out of shape before they have even begun. I don’t see why folks on the left are so upset already when nothing has been decided. And don’t forget, Mr. Netanyahu will be prime minister.
And secondly, it has always been the right-wing governments that have made practical peace agreements with the Arabs. Like with Egypt, Jordan and at least trying with the Palestinians, when Ariel Sharon withdrew from the Gaza Strip and other withdrawals from the West Bank.
Why is that?
Because right-wing governments are clear in their objectives. You know what they want and from that position you can make a deal. The left are always a bit wishy-washy. The issues are not clear, and you never know exactly what you are going to get. Much of the time their idealism is unrealistic and so we never get anywhere.
And the fact that Netanyahu’s coalition partners are all religious Jews? Either Orthodox or National Religious?
Actually, most Arabs connect with their conservative views on social issues. So in many ways we prefer the right-wing religious conservatism to the left-wing progressive secularism. If you look at all the Arab parties in Israeli politics, they are all conservative when it comes to social and religious issues. It fits our culture.
Why haven’t you gotten involved in politics given your graduate studies?
To be in politics you can’t be honest with yourself, and I didn’t want to live like that. So I studied electronics and now enjoy working with my hands and getting things done that I know helps folks.
You could do that in government as well.
Not really. The whole thing is just a balagan (too messed up).