Following their meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the heads of Druze local councils met with President Reuven Rivlin, who had advised against enactment of the Nation-State Law, cautioning that it could have negative repercussions.
He did not enjoy being the voice of prophecy.
Rivlin warmly embraced each of the council heads, and the relaxed body language during their discussion compared to that of the tense meeting with the prime minister, spoke volumes about where they believed they had a willing ear.
“Our partnership is grounded in the foundations of the state,” Rivlin told them. “That is the basis of the state we founded – the Zionist movement in full partnership with all who live here in this good land, which is good for all of us and where we can exist in equality without any problem.”
Rivlin reminded his guests that he had made his views on the matter public while the Knesset was still debating the issue, and that he had sent a letter explaining why he thought such legislation would be a mistake. Rivlin said he had no doubt that from a legal standpoint, the Druze community enjoys equal rights, “But we have to make sure that you feel equal,” he declared.
Paraphrasing Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, Horpish Local Council head Mufid Marai – who is also chairman of the Forum of Druze and Circassian Local Council Heads – said to Rivlin, “What hurts the Jews hurts the Druze, and what hurts the Druze, hurts the Jews. We are joined and we are linked.”
Prize-winning former broadcaster Rafik Halabi, who for several years now has served as mayor of Daliat El Carmel, told Rivlin that he and his colleagues had made their position clear when they met with Netanyahu: They regard the nation state law as discriminatory, because it does not give minorities in Israel a sense of belonging.
“We want civilian equality for everyone,” the delegation had told Netanyahu and reiterated to Rivlin. Members of the delegation made the point that in the army, there is no difference between Druze blood and Jewish blood. Druze soldiers were loyal to the state and willing to lay down their lives for Israel – and many in fact have done so. Within the army, there is equality, and proportionately a large number of Druze have risen to high-ranking positions. But in civilian life, the attitude towards the Druze is not the same.
“We come to you to voice our pain and our distress,” said Halabi. “This is not the distress of local council heads or army officers or religious leaders alone, but of the whole Druze, Arab and Circassian population of Israel.” Halabi noted that there are Arab university professors and heads of hospital departments in this community. He also noted that Sheikh Mawafak Tarif lit a torch at the official Independence Day ceremony marking Israel’s 70th anniversary.