It may be called the “Jewish Home” party, but a distinctly non-Jewish Israeli – Anat Haskia, a Muslim Arab resident of northern Israel – hopes to join the party as a Knesset candidate. The party will be holding primaries at the beginning of January, and Haskia is petitioning members of her community to join the party in order to be eligible to vote for her.
Haskia, whose three children served in the IDF, announced her candidacy – and her signup project – on her Facebook page Thursday.
“As you know,” she wrote, “I have decided to join the Jewish Home party. In order to get on the list of candidates I need you to join. Together we will fight against the incitement emanating from the Arab community, and encourage more young Arabs to identify with the state of Israel.”
Haskia said that by sending her kids to the army and placing herself in the public spotlight as a solid supporter of Israel, despite the disapproval from many quarters of the Arab community, she had “proven herself” - and that the Israeli public should do the same.
“Jews who seek change in Arab attitudes should help me, by empowering me to fight in the Knesset against other Arab MKs” who are less fond of Israel than she is.
“Now is the time to support me,” Haskia said, adding that she would help anyone who needed assistance in signing up for party membership. “And if you are already are Jewish Home members and plan to support my candidacy I would love to hear from you,” she added.
Haskia is part of a growing number of Israeli Arabs challenging the dominance of anti-Zionist figureheads within their communities. This phenomenon is particularly true of Israeli Christians, who in recent years have increasingly been looking to strengthen their ties with the Jewish state, noting the precarious and in some cases extremely dire situation of Christian communities in surrounding countries. The Jewish state is the only country in the Middle East whose Christian population is rising
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek-Orthodox priest from Nazareth, has been among the most recognizable figureheads in the movement - most notably by encouraging Christians to enlist in the IDF.
In an attempt to reclaim their ancient Aramean heritage which predates the Islamic conquest and Arabization of the Middle East and North Africa in the seventh century, many Israeli Christian "Arabs" have successfully led a push for their ethnicity to be officially recognized as "Aramean" instead of Arab. The decision by the interior ministry to recognize them as such was hailed as a victory by Nadaf and other activists in their campaign to break the monopoly of anti-Zionist Arab leaders on defining their community's relationship toward the State of Israel.
Haskia's potential candidacy also underscores some of the debate within the Jewish Home party, whose chairman Naftali Bennett recently succeeded in passing a new party constitution aimed at allowing a wider range of candidates to stand - including secular Jews, Druze and others - as long as they adhered to the party's platform and character as a religious-Zionist institution.
Critics have said the move would "dilute" the party's ideological character, but proponents say the constitution is clear in its insistence that the party maintain that character - and that widening its appeal would in fact strengthen its ability to influence, and potentially pave its way to leading the government.