The Knesset Plenum Monday evening approved by a vote of 57 to 1, with 15 abstentions, the Arrangements Committee’s decision to form a Special Committee on Arab Society Affairs, chaired by MK Mansour Abbas (Ra’am).
Addressing the formation of the special committee, MK Esawi Frej (Meretz) said, “I can’t believe what I’m hearing. I am a citizen of the State of Israel, and the Arrangements Committee decided that it wants me to be a subject, not a citizen… Imagine that in the United States a committee on the affairs of the Jews would be established. This is a dark day for Arab society, because some of my colleagues, Arab members of Knesset, had a hand in this.”
MK Sharren Haskel (New Hope) said, “I had to rub my eyes for a second to see because I was certain that perhaps Bezalel Smotrich (Religious Zionism) asked for some committee that is related to eradicating crime and violence in Arab society, to Negev-related issues in the context of Arab society, general issues related to local authorities, the enforcement of the ‘Kaminitz Law’ perhaps, regulating settlement in the Negev, the spread of illegal construction; but I rubbed my eyes and suddenly saw that you are voting to have Mansour Abbas head this committee. This is what a sell-off looks like.”
Speaker of the Knesset MK Yariv Levin (Likud) addressed the committee chair as sah’bi el-aziz (my dear friend) Mansour and said: “I am glad for the formation of the committee and for its chair. This is an important landmark that you are leading boldly. The understanding that the problems of Arab society – which affect everyone – must be addressed, is taking root. On a personal level. I am more than glad that you are also serving as the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. We will have a great deal to do together.”
Committee Chairman Abbas said following his appointment: “A year ago, the Knesset spoke its piece by forming the Special Committee on Eradicating Crime in Arab Society. As one of the lessons we learned, I believed that we have to be upgraded. We haven’t finished dealing with violence, but we have to deal with the deep roots of the problem. This is a step in the right direction. I have heard ridiculous claims that we have set up a ghetto for Arab society. That is populism. The committee will do its work faithfully, and we will not relieve the other committees of their responsibility. We are not building walls; on the contrary, we are taking down walls. We have succeeded in placing the problems of Arab society on the table of the Knesset and the agenda of Israeli society.”
Chair of the Arrangements Committee MK Miki Zohar (Likud) said: “This is an important committee, and it is odd that it has not been formed until today. I have conducted many discussions about the Arab sector, but there has never been a professional committee that is dedicated to the sector. The integration of [Arab] society is important so that this society can be strong and dominant. I will do everything possible to assist you. Due to my understanding of this committee’s importance, I have given myself the authorization to serve as a member of the committee.”