Whose Land is it?

A Quest for a Jewish-Arab Compact in Israel

  • Edited By:
  • Publication Date:
  • Cover Type: Softcover | Also available in Arabic and Hebrew
  • Number Of Pages: 336 Pages
  • Center: Arab-Jewish Relations
  • Price: 85 NIS

For a period of two years, from January 1999–January 2001, a group of 20 Jewish and Arab intellectuals, all citizens of Israel, met at the Israel Democracy Institute on a monthly basis in an attempt to formulate an agreement that would define the relationship between the majority and the minority in Israel and accommodate their mutual concerns. In this volume, journalist Uzi Benziman chronicles their process of deliberation, based on the transcripts that were made of their fascinating meetings.  

For a period of two years, from January 1999–January 2001, a group of 20 Jewish and Arab intellectuals, all citizens of Israel, met at the Israel Democracy Institute on a monthly basis in an attempt to formulate an agreement that would define the relationship between the majority and the minority in Israel and accommodate their mutual concerns. In this volume, journalist Uzi Benziman chronicles their process of deliberation, based on the transcripts that were made of their fascinating meetings.

This is the story of a group of Jewish and Arab intellectuals, citizens of Israel, who attempted over a period of two years to formulate an agreement that would define the relationship between the majority and the minority in the state and their mutual concerns. Their meetings took place while Israeli- Palestinian negotiations that were held led to the dissolution of Ehud Barak's government, during the outbreak of the Intifada and the riots of September-October 2000. These events and upheavals lurked in the background of the group's dialogue and influenced its progression.

Between January 1999 and January 2001, this group of twenty people met at the Israel Democracy Institute almost every month. They anatomized the issues constituting the barrier preventing Jewish-Israeli citizens and Palestinian- Israeli citizens from experiencing a sense of being equal members of a state with which they could all identify. This was an audacious endeavor since the participants stripped away their protective layers and spoke from the pained depths of their hearts about their own identities and their definition of their nationality, their partnership as citizens, and their expectations from the other participants in the dialogue.

In the course of the discussions, participants asked themselves whether they should publicize their experience. Their affirmative decision resulted is this book. Prior to the writing of the book, participants were interviewed and asked to share their insights about the meetings. A number of Arab participants expressed the fear that the story presented in the following pages would be slanted because of its being written and edited by a Jew; perhaps this remark illustrates why the attempt to jointly formulate an agreement failed.

The book was written and arranged according to the continuum of the group's discussions: defining the goal (chapter 1), defining the State of Israel's identity (chapters 2- 5), examining the concept of autonomy as a solution to the issue of the status of Israeli Arabs (chapter 6), considering the possibility of achieving this goal by means of their increased participation and representation (chapters 7- 8), or by means of affirmative action (chapter 9). At a special meeting, the group's members met with the then head of the Shabak (internal security service), Ami Ayalon, who presented his personal beliefs as well as those of the security service regarding the relationship between the majority and the minority in the state and the extent of the security risk inherent in Israel's Arab population (chapter 10). Subsequent meetings discussed land issues (chapter 11), a compulsory national civil- service which would be incumbent also on the Arab population (chapters 12-13), and suggestions for legislative changes along with exchanges of opinions on the validity and suitability of state symbols (chapters 14-15). In November 2000, the group met to discuss the events of September- October 2000 (chapters 16-17), and about a month later they responded to the draft of a summarizing document prepared by the members they had chosen for this task (chapters 18-19). On February 21, 2001, the group gathered for its final meeting (chapter 20). The last chapter of the book (chapter 21) presents the impressions and analyses of the participants, three years after the group had disbanded.

Dr. Adel Manna (chairman), Director of the Center for the Study of Arab
Society in Israel at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute.

Prof. Mordechai Kremnitzer (chairman), Senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute; Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Dr. Khaled Abu-Asba, Manager of the Massar Institute for Research, Planning, and Educational Counseling.

Prof. Moshe Arens, former Foreign Minister and Defense Minister.

Mr. Talal Al- Krenawi, Mayor of Rahat.

Prof. Ella Belfer, Chair on Society and Judaism at the Political Studies Department, Bar Ilan University.

Rabbi Yoel Ben- Nun, Head of the Ein Tzurim Yeshiva.

Prof. Eliezer Don-Yehiya, Department of Political Studies, Bar Ilan University; Director, the Argov Center for the Study of the Jewish People and the State of Israel.

MK Michael Eitan, Chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee.

Dr. Hala Espanioli, the Arab College for Education in Haifa.

Prof. Ruth Gavison, Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Adv. Osama Halabi, Jurist.

Dr. Rassem Khamaisi, City Planner, Urban Developer, and Senior Lecturer in the Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, University of Haifa; Research Fellow at the Floersheimer Institute for Policy Studies, and Manager of a Center for Urban Planning in Kfar Kanna.

Prof. David Kretzmer, Faculty of Law, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Sheikh Kamal Rian, Leader in the Islamic Movement in Israel; Deputy Director General, The Center for Local Government.

Dr. Ahmad H. Sa'di, Lecturer in the Department of Politics and Government, the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

Prof. Sammy Smooha, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, the University of Haifa.
 
Dr. Yitzhak Reiter, the Department for Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem; Research Fellow at the Harry S. Truman Institute for the Advancement of Peace.

Dr. Elie Rekhess, Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University; Director of the Konrad Adenauer Program for Jewish- Arab Cooperation, Tel- Aviv University.

Prof. Edna Ullmann-Margalit, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.