Despite the growing influence of Hamas, and despite living in neighborhoods that tend to get an unequal share of municipal resources, the Arabs of eastern Jerusalem express surprisingly encouraging attitudes toward Israel. According to recent surveys, 42 percent report feeling a sense of belonging in Israeli society, 43 percent recognize a historic connection between the Jewish people and the land, and 46 percent have a positive attitude toward the police. Nadav Shragai explains what Jerusalem can and should do to capitalize on this good will:
Many [of east Jerusalem’s Arabs] are undergoing a process of “Israelization,” not to say Westernization, and are becoming more and more like [Arab citizens of Israel living elsewhere in the country]. Some, dissatisfied with their permanent-residency status, are requesting Israeli citizenship, but this is granted sparingly.
Despite this, however, merely a few thousand of the 335,000 east-Jerusalem Arabs have voted in municipal elections for Jerusalem’s city council, even though they have the right to [do so]. Incidentally, far more east-Jerusalem residents would vote, and perhaps shape a list that . . . represents them in the municipality, had they not been terrorized by Fatah and Hamas. . . .
But this time things can be different. . . . As Jews and Israelis, we shouldn’t be afraid of this change. If voters and political lists from east-Jerusalem were to participate actively in local elections, it would be a welcome thing. Jerusalem is a binational city, and that is not going to change anytime soon. . . .
Israel needs to create the conditions for them to participate in truly free elections. They will not come to the ballots if they fear being shot on the way, or having their cars torched. The police and the Shin Bet security agency, for their part, must enable the Arabs to vote without fear. Technology can also be used to this end: in the 21st century, it is possible to vote using a computer, even from home or from the workplace. Even those who fear east-Jerusalem Arabs influencing national Jewish interests in Jerusalem should not be afraid of striking a true partnership with them.