Should Israeli Arabs participate in a Palestinian Referendum?

Recent declarations by Israeli Arab leaders reflect a fissure in relations between the State of Israel and its Arab citizens, and may herald the creation of a number of new trends among the Israeli Arab public.
Nabil Amr, an advisor to Abu Mazen, recently declared that Israeli Arabs will not take part in a any Palestinian referendum to ratify a possible agreement with Israel.

This comment has been heavily criticized by leaders of the Israeli Arab community. In response to Amr's comments, MK Sarsur said that Israeli Arabs want to participate in decisions connected to the Palestinian people. MK Taha stated that "Israeli Arabs are an integral part of the Palestinian people and are connected to the right of return...there are 250,000 internal refugees living in Israel in addition to those refugees in the PA and Palestinian diaspora." Moreover, Assad Ghanem, senior lecturer at Haifa University, declared that "there can be no solution [to the Israeli Palestinian conflict] without those Palestinians living in Israel whose opinion on the question of the refugees' right of return and [the recognition of] Israel as a Jewish State is the most important issue. A two state solution cannot be implemented without the agreement of the Palestinians living in Israel."

These declarations reflect the fissure in relations between the State of Israel and its Arab citizens, and may herald the creation of a number of new trends among the Israeli Arab public.

Challenging the authority of Israel and PLO to discuss Israeli Arabs - The statements by leaders of the Israeli Arab public constitute a double challenge to the authority of both Israel and the PLO to negotiate their fate without their participation. As such, Israeli Arabs are signaling that they may not accept an agreement between Israel and the PLO that affects their destiny.

The Complexity of Ratifying a Permanent Status Agreement - Abu Mazen has declared that any PSA with Israel must either be ratified by the PLO's National Council or by a referendum. Similarly in Israel, it seems that a PSA may be brought to a referendum or lead to new elections.

The Israeli Arab demand to participate in the referendum of the Palestinian people raises the question as to which ratification process they will take part in - the Israeli process as citizens of the State or the Palestinian process as members of the Palestinian people. Alternatively, will Israeli Arabs be able to take part in both ratification processes simultaneously?

Internal Refugees as an Outstanding Issue - The aforementioned statements indicate a fresh attempt to revive the issue of 'internal refugees' living in Israel, which from Israel's perspective is a non-issue.

Sources

Yonatan Halevy, NFC, 12/29/07; full article (Hebrew).