Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Arabic Voice of the Israeli Right

A member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament--MK for short) Ayoub Kara is claiming to have had relatively high level contacts with the Syrian and Egyptian governments on behalf of his party--the right wing Likud--with a view towards peace. What is unique about MK Kara, is that he's a Druze, a religious minority found in Israel, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria and, an Arab. Kara claims to have diplomatic contacts across the Arab world and has appointed himself the unofficial Israeli ambassador to these countries. This is significant because for probably the first time an Arab, from Israel will be speaking to other Arabs from a right wing Israeli perspective. There are high ranking Arabs in the Israeli diplomatic corps but they speak on behalf of the Israeli government in power at a given time, Kara, however, is not bound by normal diplomatic constraints, he is a Likudnik.

Critics are already pointing out that Kara is probably less connected then he claims. Other MKs have pointed out that the Syrian official he claims to have met with is likely an exiled dissident, sentenced to death in absentia. The Egyptian ambassador to Israel has denied claims Kara made about Israeli-Egyptian relations and there are those in the Knesset that question how much he really speaks for the Prime Minister-in-waiting Netanyahu when he suggests that Netanyahu's peace plans will be surprising to the whole world.

So, what to make of this guy? Well, his critics say that he's probably just blowing around some hot air and really is not speaking to anyone of import. Kara has also been known to hold some fairly extreme right wing views and went so far as to praise an the actions of an Israeli soldier who was arrested by the military police and was subsequently punished for the very actions that Kara had praised him for. Kara is also hoping for a portfolio in Netanyahu's cabinet. These things combined paint the image of a somewhat eccentric individual whose claims should not necessarily always be taken for granted. Nonetheless, Kara is a unique case and may yet have success in reaching out to Arabs and presenting to them, perhaps for the first time, views which they had previously only ever heard from Israeli Jews. For this reason alone, Kara is worth watching.

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