By Israel Harel
Kosovo's declaration of independence has sparked concern in certain circles in Israel. The day may not be far off when the Arabs of Galilee start clamoring for political independence, too. In recent years, many of them have been cutting themselves off, psychologically and physically, from the Jewish-democratic State of Israel.
The Muslims of Kosovo constitute an absolute majority of the population, and the same is true for the Galilee Arabs. Quite a few Jews have been leaving the Galilee, especially since October 2000, and not many are joining the sparse Jewish population there, despite an array of financial incentives. The events in Kosovo have triggered memories of the thousands who took part in the violence in Wadi Ara in 2000, blocking major traffic arteries and cutting off access to Jewish communal settlements in an outbreak of rioting that coincided with Yasser Arafat's war of terror.
Memories come rushing back on the use of live ammunition in some cases, and the operation of an underground and terror cells alongside the suicide bombers dispatched from Gaza, Judea and Samaria. Demonstrations where the Palestinian flag is raised in protest - on the anniversary of Arafat's death, for example - have become commonplace on campuses in Israel, especially at the University of Haifa. In the Galilee and Haifa, Arab intellectuals and public figures have compiled documents known as "The Vision," in which they reject Israel as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people.
Before the Annapolis summit, delegates of all the Israeli Arab organizations convened in Nazareth and reached a unanimous decision to call upon Mahmoud Abbas not to cooperate with Ehud Olmert and recognize Israel as a Jewish state. A delegation of Arab Knesset members was sent to meet with the Palestinian negotiators to ensure that the message had sunk in. If the Arab citizens of Israel vehemently oppose recognizing Israel as the Jewish homeland, said MK Ahmed Tibi to Abu Ala (Ahmed Qurei), how can you, the representatives of the Palestinian people, even consider such a thing?
Israeli governments have resigned themselves to the blatant, unconcealed separatist actions of the Galilee Arabs, and this only perpetuates the phenomenon. Shimon Peres, who was appointed by several governments to oversee measures ultimately aimed at increasing the Jewish presence in the Galilee, talked a lot but did little. Political correctness, such as halting the campaign to "Judaize Galilee," was his guideline.
All the authorities, including those in charge of law enforcement, have resigned themselves to criminal acts ("juvenile delinquency," the police chief of the Northern District calls the phenomenon of stones thrown at Jewish vehicles, especially near Hamovil Junction), such as encroaching on state land and illegal construction that has reached the scope of tens of thousands of buildings.
Kosovo is already here, even without a formal declaration of independence. Looking at the government's mode of conduct in the periphery, and even its response to the Qassam rockets in the south, one realizes the futility of expecting it to wake up and fight against those who are challenging Israeli sovereignty in the Galilee.
The leaders of this separatist policy in the Israeli Arab community know very well that apathy and lack of self-confidence also characterize the approach of the agencies of the state - the police, the courts, the Israel Lands Administration, the tax authorities and the Ministry of the Interior - in their dealings with the Arab public. This only increases the motivation to gnaw further at Israeli authority and sovereignty.
Unlike the Kosovars in the Balkans, who are satisfied with their separatist province and do not claim ownership over all Serbian territory, the Arabs of the Galilee, and certainly the northern wing of the Islamic Movement, claim ownership - political and territorial - over all of Israel. The "salami method" pays off.
In the Negev, the Bedouins are taking over large stretches of land almost without hindrance, while Israel's do-nothing government responds by establishing committees to "sort out" the land issues. The most recent of them is the committee chaired by Judge Eliezer Goldberg, which is now convening.
This inertia will probably continue, with the Zionist state financing, via education, health, national insurance and other state monies transferred to citizens, a population that is de facto establishing a Palestinian state within the sovereign State of Israel - separate, of course, from the Palestinian state that the Arabs are pushing for in Judea and Samaria.