President Reuven Rivlin held an official meeting with 50 Arab heads of local and regional municipalities in Israel at the Presidential Residence in Jerusalem on Thursday morning.
Speaking after a bus crash on Tuesday in which eight Bedouin women were killed and many others wounded as they returned from praying at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount, Rivlin said "we do not have to wait for times of crises to meet, we must ensure we initiate and establish permanent and long lasting channels of communication."
"Today the Arab minority is no longer such a minority, and there is a need to realign the system of local government to include balance between all sectors of Israeli society," he said. "I have a sincere desire to change, and to further the status of the Arab sector in relation to the rest of the citizens of Israel."
Rivlin then made several promises, saying "we need to create another Arab city and need to continue to deepen the integration of the Arabic language in all our children's educations."
"As a Member of Knesset and Speaker of the Knesset I followed all legislative actions and initiatives to promote integration and development in the Arab and Bedouin sectors. …We are the bridge to connecting the understanding that we were meant to live together and if we understand that that is where our future is – we will succeed," he concluded.
Rivlin's calls for another Arab city and for all Israeli children to learn Arabic follows his harsh criticism of the Jewish State Law that would enshrine Israel's status as the nation-state of the Jewish people in the constitution, and likewise remove Arabic from being an official language. Rivlin recently was accused by Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman (Yisrael Beytenu) of pandering to the Arab vote by previously fighting for the privileges of a traitorous Arab MK.
"Cold-blooded killers live among us"
The Arab leaders then spoke up, telling Rivlin about the issues facing their communities, and citing prime among them a rampant "criminal terrorism."
Mazen Ghanaian, Mayor of Sakhnin which has been noted as a hotbed of Arab nationalism and anti-Zionist sentiment, asked for help in dealing with unemployment in the Arab male sector.
"Another serious problem we are facing is the large number of weapons found on the streets, which have taken a terrible toll on our youth," Ghanaian said. "We see you, Mr. President, as a beacon of hope and light, and we hope that you will be our anchor for the changes we wish for."
His sentiments were echoed by Taibe Mayor Abed Elhaii Mamum, who said "we are dealing with criminal terrorism."
"Dozens of cold-blooded killers live among us and we are waiting for the next victim to turn up. This is the responsibility of the state and the police – for as municipal leaders our hands are tied," he complained.
The mayor of Shfar'am, Amin Anabtawi, spoke about the position of Arab citizens of Israel in general, saying "we will not advance anywhere if we cannot be convinced that we are sailing on the same boat and the hole below where I sit is endangering everyone on the boat."