Israel’s president recently appeared at a ceremony in the village of Kafr Qasim, commemorating the anniversary of the killing of 49 Arab civilians by Israeli border police in 1957. (The next year, Israeli courts convicted eight of those involved.) In his speech, Reuven Rivlin reiterated Israel’s official apology for the killings, condemned recent acts of Palestinian terror, and commented frankly on the future of the relationship between Israeli Jews and Arabs.
Friends, “I hereby swear, in my name and that of all of our descendants, that we will never act against the principle of equal rights, and we will never try and force someone from our land.” These are not my words, but the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Beitar movement. Words he spoke more than 80 years ago, and which I repeat here today.
The state of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, who returned to their land after two millennia of exile. This was its very purpose. However, the state of Israel will also always be the homeland of the Arab population, which numbers more than one-and-a-half million, and makes up more than twenty percent of the population of the country. . . .
I am not naïve. There is no point in denying or ignoring the reality of relations between the communities. Between the Jewish and Arab populations of the state of Israel, there remain the sentiments of a difficult past. We belong to two nations, whose dreams and aspirations, to a great extent contradict each other. . . . [T]he Arab population of Israel must be brought to internalize and accept that the state of Israel is the national home of the Jewish people. As long as there exists any aspiration to eradicate the Jews from this land, there will be no chance of building a true partnership.