The biggest problem that Israel faces today is not Hamas or the Palestinians. It is Israel’s 2 million Arab citizens.
I believe that the primary reason that Hamas decided to attack Israel now was to unleash the growing unrest within Israel’s Arab community and to cause them to unite with the Palestinians.
I also think that the main reason Israel agreed to a ceasefire, before it could inflict more damage on Hamas, was not as a result of international pressure, which actually wasn’t that great at this time, but because it felt that more fighting in Gaza would cause greater unrest by Israel’s Arabs.
Israel can protect itself from the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank by building walls and barriers. But Israel’s Arabs live throughout the country. In some places, like the Triangle in the Galilee, they are the overwhelming majority. Israeli Arabs play an integral role in Israel’s economy, particularly in jobs that many Jewish Israelis shun. They also run businesses, staff schools and hospitals, and work for the government. While many live in exclusively Arab cities, towns and communities, there are tens of thousands who live alongside Jews in cities like Acco, Lod, Ramle, Haifa, Jaffa and others.
The Arabs in Israel, especially the younger generation, are identifying more closely with the Palestinians. This became clear during the recent riots and unrest in mixed Jewish-Arab areas. And if 2 million Arabs in Israel decide to side with the Palestinians and create unrest, it could be disastrous for Israel. Having to deal with a united front of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs will create an untenable situation. It will be an internal and external war with unthinkable consequences for both Jews and Arabs.
There is really only one civilized solution to this problem. While Israeli Arabs have the same legal rights as any Jewish citizen of the country (No Apartheid), Israel needs to provide its Arab citizens with better opportunities to succeed financially, professionally and socially. It needs to provide more funding to improve social services, infrastructure, education and policing in Arab communities. When people are happy and secure and working, they are much less likely to revolt or cause unrest.
I hope it’s not to late to save the Israeli-Arab community from being pushed into unifying with the Palestinians and Hamas.