Segments of the Israeli Arab community are becoming more extreme, and “the Islamic State is already here,” President Reuven Rivlin warned on Monday.
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“Research studies, arrests, testimonies... clearly indicate that there is increasing support for the Islamic State among Israeli Arabs, while some are actually joining ISIS,” Rivlin told a conference organized by the Institute for National Security Studies. “Anyone familiar with Arab society knows that in recent years there has been considerable radicalization in some Bedouin settlements in the south, and in Arab towns and villages in the north,” with regard to implementing Sharia law.
Even secular Arabs are being influenced by extremist ideas, he continued, and Israeli Arab moderates increasingly “feel threatened, they feel that the ground is being pulled from under their feet.”
Rivlin blasted Israeli Arab leaders who “blame the ‘occupation’ as the source of all ills, while displaying sympathy and understanding for attacks on innocents,” terming them a “stigma” on Israeli Arab society.
Nevertheless, he said, the solution isn’t “to abandon the Arab community to deal alone with the threat of ISIS that is growing within it.”
“If the rot on which the Islamic State is flourishing is among other things a result of the vacuum of identity and education, then the State of Israel must create an alternative,” he continued. “An alternative which does not fear a positive and secure Israeli Palestinian identity,” but also doesn’t accept the delegitimization of Israel or identification with its enemies.
“If the rot on which the Islamic State is flourishing is also a vacuum of governance, or lack of security or lack of law enforcement, then we must do all we can to deal with that vacuum and to fully implement Israeli sovereignty over all parts of the State of Israel, even if that means increasing budgets and manpower,” he added.
Rivlin said security forces can’t solve the problem alone, and that trust must be restored “between the Jewish and Arab populations.”