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The thunderous collapse of the Twin Towers drowned out, among other things, the suicide terror attack in Nahariya perpetrated by Mohammed Habeishi of Abu-Snan, as well as the arrest of five youths from Umm al-Fahm who are suspected of being members of a terrorist cell. There are signs that this is not the end of the involvement of Israeli Arabs in subversive activities.

This development justifies a conceptual change in the relationships between the majority and minority in Israel. There is no choice but to define the willingness of Israeli Arabs to participate in terror activities against their own country as a new trend. We are not once again witnessing isolated incidents, which occur once every few years, but rather an accelerated process.

The leaders of the Arab public in Israel do indeed describe such expressions of subversiveness as isolated events and seek to play down their severity, arguing that for now, there are only suspicions and that past experience has taught that the investigative authorities have often dealt with baseless charges regarding innocent Arabs. They also warn against collectively accusing the entire Israeli Arab population (numbering 1.2 million individuals).

As much as the heart tends to accept this viewpoint, and as much as the mind does indeed warn against labeling the entire Arab public with suspicion, it would be a mistake to ignore the profound significance of the phenomenon: Over the past year, against the backdrop of the Palestinian uprising in the territories, the riots of last year and the social and cultural developments in the country, more and more Arab citizens of Israel are feeling the need to take part in acts of terror against the state and its expanding Jewish population.

In fact, Israel is now witnessing the first expressions of a new stage in the relationship between the majority and the minority: The Arab public has consolidated into a community with an independent political awareness. It has collective demands from the majority and also comprises forces that are willing to use the weapon of terror, either to motivate the state into meeting these demands, or to take revenge on and harass it.

It would be best not to delude ourselves: The demands of the minority do not merely amount to identifying with the Palestinian uprising in the territories or the struggle (justified, of course) for equal civil rights and the abolition of the discriminatory attitude toward the Arab public that has existed since the establishment of the state.

The expectations of the Arab sector have a group-like character: It wants to be afforded the rights of a national minority.

Within the Arab public, there are varying perceptions with regard to the formulation of its goals - from equalizing the status of the individual, through to cultural autonomy, the receipt of a national minority status with collective rights, and up to the viewpoint of Azmi Bishara, who believes, so it appears, in turning the Jewish majority into a tolerable minority in an Arab state.

The less-correct response to the negative turnaround in the relationship between the Jewish and Arab citizens of the state is excessiveness. Initiatives of the type calling for the demolition of the home of the terrorist from Abu-Snan, or revoking the National Insurance Institute privileges of its remaining occupants, must be nipped in the bud: Not only do they give renewed validity to the discrimination against the Arab citizens of the country, they also place the legislator and the regime in an embarrassing light: Why wasn't the same done with the family of Baruch Goldstein, who committed an act of terror of a similar nature?

There is no certainty that Israel hasn't already missed the boat when it comes to rectifying the relationship between the majority and minority within itself: The riots of last October, the police response to them, the ever-increasing influence of the Islamic Movement and its statements with regard to Israel's plot against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, the escalating rhetoric of the Arab members of the Knesset and the continuing erosion in the definition of their Israeli identity, the ongoing violation of promises made by the government to the Arab sector, and the terror cells that are being uncovered within the Arab public - all are evidence of the need for an immense effort to come to a halt at the edge of the abyss.

The correct way to handle the situation is a combination of a firm hand against expressions of subversiveness, coupled with an economic and political momentum of extraordinary extent, with the purpose of conveying to the Arab citizens that the state does indeed want to incorporate them and turn them into citizens with equal rights - and obligations.