PM Sharon’s remarks at start of meeting with Arab local council heads

(Communicated by the Prime Minister’s Media Adviser)

"I would like to welcome the Committee of Arab Local Council heads. I invited the heads of the Arab local councils to an open conversation in light of the publication of the Or Commission report. It was written in the report that the treatment of the Arab sector is a very important and sensitive issue that must be personally dealt with by the Prime Minister. As is well known, six months ago, upon the establishment of the current government, I established a ministerial committee to deal with the non-Jewish sector and I decided to chair the committee so that I might deal with this issue as well.

This is the only committee that I personally took upon myself. It has already held several discussions in which decisions that have already been carried out were taken. I will not detail them all here but I will point out one important decision on the completion of the four-year plan to assist and advance the Arab sector. Due to budget cuts in recent years, it was decided to extend the plan for another two years in order to complete the commitments in spite of our economic difficulties.

I see the need to improve the situation and status of Israeli Arabs as being of the highest importance; this is so that genuine equality of rights and obligations may be achieved for all Israeli citizens. I emphasize here the rights and obligations of all Israeli citizens. Today, to my regret, before the conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, we have difficult issues. I believe that the day will come in which upon the conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it will be possible to demand not only rights but also obligations.

Israeli Arabs deserve equality as a right and not as a privilege. My government has set this as a priority, to implement this basic value, and I want to emphasize that you also have the responsibility to achieve these aims. There is distress as a result of the plight that exists in the cities that you lead, and you will also have to make efforts, with our help, but greater efforts.

The majority of the Arab public is law-abiding, and it is their right to protest and demonstrate whilst observing the law. It must not happen that a small, inciting and extremist minority should take advantage of this right and instigate violent outbursts. Jews and Arabs will live together in the State of Israel.

I am trying to look backwards, to the days of my childhood at the moshav. I did not think that there would be a day where Jews and Arabs would not live together.

This State is truly wonderful but very complicated, Jews and Arabs, secular and religious, religious and ultra-orthodox, etc. I could make a very long list here.

In order for us to be able to live together, two things need to exist. The first is that the law must be fully observed and kept by everybody without exception; Israeli citizens must completely follow the law. The second is that justice must be carried out. If the law is not upheld there can be no justice. If we know how to keep both of these things, all Israeli citizens upholding the law and doing justice, it will be possible to live together and develop the State of Israel and to have not just peaceful relations and mutual understanding, etc. but greater achievements in all areas. This is my request to you. I ask you to take this opportunity to call on the Arab public and its leaders to show responsibility and to act together with us in order to bring about the complete integration of the Arabs into Israeli society."

 PM Sharon-s remarks at start of meeting with Arab local council heads-Sept 17- 2003
 PM Sharon-s remarks at start of meeting with Arab local council heads-Sept 17- 2003
 PM Sharon-s remarks at start of meeting with Arab local council heads-Sept 17- 2003

 Official summation of the Or Commission report – published by Ha’aretz, Sept 2, 2003