Sharon Seeks Out Extremist Arab Mayor for New Party

An Arabic-language newspaper in the Negev reports that Ariel Sharon offered the mayor of the Arab city of Rahat a place on his new Kadima party list for the Knesset.

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Hillel Fendel, | updated: 10:01

The mayor in question has called in the past upon his fellow not to dare sell land to Israeli bodies. He has also issued threats in the event that the Government of Israel does not meet the Bedouin's budgetary demands.

Analyst and former IDF Intelligence officer Yonatan D. HaLevy reports that the mayor is Talal Al-Karinawi, head of the Negev city of Rahat, north of Be'er Sheva. Al-Karinawi has not yet responded to Sharon's offer, and is consulting with his close associates.

Kadima party officials continue to seek leading personalities to fill their list of Knesset candidates. The list currently includes 21 candidates:
* 14 former Likud Ministers and MKs
* two from Labor (Ramon and Itzik); Shimon Peres, also formerly of Labor, has apparently been promised a ministerial portfolio by Sharon, but will not run for a Knesset seat
* Michael Nudelman (National Union)
* David Tal (One Nation).

In addition, former GSS Director Avi Dichter, former Education Ministry Director Ronit Tirosh, and Kiryat Shmonah Mayor Chaim Barbivai have agreed to join.

Polls foresee Sharon's party receiving at least 30 seats, and Sharon is therefore seeking additional names to run with. He met with some 60 mayors earlier this week, and several of them are said to be considering joining the party. Former Agriculture Minister Shalom Simchon of Labor and Cabinet Secretary Yisrael Maimon turned down offers to join Kadima this week.

The Kadima party already has one Arab MK, Majali Wahabe, who was one of the first to announce that he was joining Sharon. It is also rumored that Labor MK Raleb Majadele, an Israeli-Arab who replaced Avraham Burg in the Knesset in June 2004, is planning to join. Shimon Peres, who announced his support of Kadima this past Wednesday night, publicly called upon Majadale to join Kadima as well.

The Arab mayor courted by Sharon has expressed a tough stance regarding the Bedouins in the Negev. Analyst HaLevy reports that in Nov. 2001, Mayor Al-Karinawi was quoted on the Hamas website as having said, "The Arab residents in the Negev will employ strong steps if the government does not meet their [financial] demands, and this will affect the Jewish residents who live in the Negev and who will never know quiet in the area."

In Dec. 2004, HaLevy reports, Al-Karinawi told Islam Online that the Bedouin tribes are fighting to prevent their recruitment into the IDF.

Most recently, Al-Karinawi took a strongly militant pro-Bedouin stand in the ongoing struggle between Bedouin and Jews for control of the Negev. He said that the Bedouin lived in the land "before the establishment of the State [of Israel], and they are protecting it [the Negev] with their souls and bodies. This ceremony [marking Earth Day] is a proof of the unity of the Arabs who are 'inside' [as opposed to in Judea and Samaria - ed.] and of our adherence to [demanding] our rights... We must be partners in developing the Negev. No matter what our financial state is, it is absolutely forbidden to sell the land to the Israel Lands Authority."