A group of prominent Israeli Arabs has called on Israel to stop defining itself as a Jewish state and become a "consensual democracy for both Arabs and Jews," prompting consternation and debate across the country.
Their contention is part of "The Future Vision of the Palestinian Arabs in Israel," a report published in December under the auspices of the Committee of Arab Mayors in Israel, which represents the country's 1.3 million Arab citizens, about a fifth of the population. Some 40 well-known academics and activists took part.
They call on the state to recognize Israeli Arab citizens as an indigenous group with collective rights, saying Israel inherently discriminates against non-Jewish citizens in its symbols of state, some core laws, and budget and land allocations.
The authors propose a form of government, "consensual democracy," akin to the Belgian model for Flemish- and French-speakers, involving proportional representation and power-sharing in a central government and autonomy for the Arab community in areas like education, culture and religious affairs.
I am a strong believer that the only solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict is a binational democratic state where one person equals one vote and where ethnic and religious minorities are guaranteed equal rights. This declaration seems to be a step in the right direction, although many Israelis see it as a thinly veiled plan to destroy Israel.
But whether that's accurate or not depends on whether one sees Israel as a Jewish state or as a state of its citizens. After all, Israel is less homogeneous, in terms of religion, than the US.
Further reading: An English version of the report can be found here. Otherwise, Ilan Pappe has a very good article on the Israeli demographic question here, and Tony Judt's article on a binational state can be read here.