Israeli President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday barred the entry of MK Jamal Zahalka (Joint Arab List) to the presidential palace in Jerusalem to partake in a special event for the heads of Arab municipalities. Palace officials told the rejected lawmaker that the decision followed his meeting a few weeks ago, along with two other Arab MKs, with the families of murderous terrorists. According to sources in the palace who spoke to Ha’aretz, “Zahalka’s action makes it difficult for us to accept him.”
The president hosted 67 heads of Arab municipalities as well as the directors-general of government ministries, to discuss the government’s new five-year plan to aid Arab cities. All the heads of Arab parties in the Knesset had been invited a month in advance, but, apparently, MK Zahalka had neglected to confirm his invitation before he went and stood at attention, honoring the memory of Arabs who murdered Israeli Jews.
Zahalka said Wednesday night that he had decided to attend the meeting despite the home demolitions practiced by Israel both against families of Arab terrorists and against Arab families that practice illegal construction. But after he had decided to attend, he was told that all the seats at the event were taken already, and so his colleagues in the Joint Arab List who hadn’t provided aid and comfort to the enemy also stayed out.
Using humor to fuse a tense situation, Zahalka said, “I didn’t know they were short on chairs in the presidential palace, we should seriously consider an additional budget for purchasing additional seats.”
Mazen Ghanem, Mayor of Sakhnin and Chairman of the Arab mayors’ association, said that the heads of Arab municipalities are expecting that the new aid program be delivered as promised, and rejected the idea of conditioning it on the Arabs obeying the zoning laws or following the legal process to obtain building permits. He also warned that he and his allies reject any attempt to harm the quality of life and national identity of Israeli Arabs, which, apparently, is what obeying the law would do to them.
As things stand, the majority of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s cabinet ministers, most notably Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu), Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Kulanu), and Interior Minister Aryeh Deri (Shas) are also inclined to deliver the increased budgets to the Arab sector sans the quid pro quo of demanding adherence to Israeli zoning and building laws.