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Transport Min: Arabic Signs are Like 'Right of Return'

Minister Yisrael Katz explains that the current road signs, with Arabic place names, bring in the ‘right of return’ via the back door.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 7/16/2009, 6:34 PM

Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz explains his bold decision to change road signs to reflect the Hebrew, and not Arabic, names of cities in Israel.

“I discovered, to my great astonishment,” Katz told Arutz-7’s Hebrew newsmagazine, “that the official road signs of the State of Israel have Jerusalem written not as 'Yerushalayim,' but as 'Al-Quds.' Acco was not there, just 'Akka.' Will Tel Aviv soon be known as Sheikh Munis?"

"I saw the ‘right of return’ slipping in at us via the back door, and that’s why I ordered the changes made," the minister said.

The new order will have the word Yerushalayim spelled out on road signs to the capital not only in Hebrew, but in Arabic and English letters as well.

The ‘right of return’ is a long-standing demand made by the Arabs against Israel to allow hundreds of thousands of Arabs who left Israel around the time of the War of Independence, and their millions of descendants, to return to Israel. The claim that they left because Israel drove them out has been disproved many times, and in fact many Arab spokesmen and officials, past and present, have acknowledged that their compatriots were encouraged to leave by Arab countries. In addition, Jewish spokesmen have pointed out that an even greater number of Jews were forced out of Arab lands during the same period.

Katz said that only the Hebrew names of locations will remain on the signs, “except for places in Arab areas that are known by their Arab names.”  First to be changed will be road signs in the Jerusalem area.

The Transportation Minister said he arrived at the road sign decision during a meeting on road sign uniformity. “I noticed that there were Arab place names left over from before the establishment of the state,” he said.

“I know that this decision arouses various objections,” Katz said – and in fact Arab MKs and others have sharply criticized it for being 'racist' – “but I am willing to stand up and back it in every forum. I will not let non-Arab places become Arabized.”

Some Arab MKs cited the high costs of the new project, but Katz dismissed this easily: “It will cost very little, not to mention that the cost in terms of the national significance is much higher.”

Katz, a former Agriculture Minister, first entered the Knesset in 1998, in place of then-Likud MK and Jerusalem Mayor Ehud Olmert, who was forced to resign when the Attorney General’s stance was accepted that an MK may not serve as a mayor at the same time.