'What has he done for the country?'
Iyad Mansour of Tira fidgets uncomfortably when asked about his political views. "What good does it do me? The Jews criticized me and the Arabs criticized me," he says. And he's right. Mansour, a member of the Labor Party for the past 25 years, voted this week in the party's Central Committee in favor of the party remaining in the coalition together with Yisrael Beiteinu. Among the Arab public in general, his vote was not regarded with understanding. Nor did his colleagues in the party, including MKs Raleb Majadele and Nadia Hilu find it acceptable. But Mansour represents a certain, significant group of Arab party members who are close to Infrastructure Minister Benjamin (Fuad) Ben-Eliezer and, like him, were opposed to the party's leaving the coalition.
Mansour makes his living from several small businesses he owns in the town, including a cafe and a garage. Tira is just five minutes from Kfar Sava ("If Hapoel Kfar Sava loses, people in Tira get mad because they feel like it's their team"), and it used to be just 15 minutes from Tul Karm. The Trans-Israel Highway now separates Tira from the Green Line, but the town is still "in the danger zone" if Lieberman's plan ever becomes an actuality: Yisrael Beiteinu's platform calls for a population exchange between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Avigdor Lieberman's plan is based upon altering the border in the Triangle region, so that the Arab communities there would be transferred to the PA's jurisdiction. "Israel is our home ("Yisrael Beiteinu"), Palestine is their home," says the party's website.
According to the party platform, the Arab citizens who remained in the state, like the Jewish citizens, would have to swear an oath of loyalty to it. Mansour believes that the Arab citizens are loyal to the state, but that the state has failed to duly acknowledge them. "We were residents here before the founding of the state. We are as thoroughly Israeli as anyone else. Sometimes we're given a hard time, it's true, but the fact is that we're here and a majority of us, 99 percent, is fine. It's unacceptable for someone who came here not that long ago to start wanting to expel people," he says.
Mansour is aware of the threat that Lieberman represents to the state's Arab citizens ("He's a racist"), but discounts the seriousness of this. "It's not that important what Lieberman says. You think it will really happen? He can desire it all he wants. He's just one of 25 ministers. What has he done for the country? Who is he? He comes from Russia and right away starts ruling out other people? Does that make any sense to you?"