Yafo Israel news photo: Flash 90

Arab groups in Yafo (Jaffa), with the support of city council members on the political left, recently succeeded in getting six streets in the mixed Jewish-Arab neighborhood named after Arab figures. Meretz delegate Ahmed Masharawi said Arabs in Yafo would push for more streets to be named after Arabs.

Tel Aviv-Yafo councilman Arnon Giladi warned in an interview with Arutz-Sheva that the battle over street names is part of a larger effort to upset the balance of Jewish-Arab coexistence in Yafo. “I am in favor of coexistence and peace... Unfortunately there are populist figures trying to take things in a different direction,” he said.

While there is nothing wrong with naming Yafo's streets for Arab leaders, problems arise when names that are “outside the Israeli consensus” are promoted, he explained. A street could certainly be named for Sheikh Bassem Abu Zeid, a religious figure known in both the Jewish and Arab communities, Giladi said. But in the latest round of battles over street names, he said, proponents of Arab street names suggested naming after some figures who rejected Israel.

Councilmen from Yafo and elsewhere in southern Tel Aviv should be focusing on the serious challenges facing the area, such as improving the quality of education, he added. By focusing on street names instead, they prove that their agenda is not to improve the quality of life for residents, but rather, to engage in “semantics” in order to make a political point, he charged.

Giladi emphasized that for the most part, Yafo has “a quality population” of both Jews and Arabs, and that problems in the area are caused by a minority that seeks to disrupt the current balance.

Issues arise in particular during fighting between Israel and Arab groups in Gaza or Judea and Samaria, he said. When there is fighting, “Suddenly, the moderate voices disappear, and only the extremists are heard.”

Giladi had little patience for extremist Arab nationalists, and suggested that if they are unhappy in Israel, they should feel free to leave. “Whoever feels drawn to the Palestinian side – they can go there, they can go to Gaza. Maybe it will be better for them there.”