Posted: 3/3/2007 8:53:00 PM
Author: Jeremy Last
Israel's Arab President: So Much For The Lie Of Apartheid
by Jeremy Last
Majallie Whbee Israel's first non-Jewish President has rubbished claims that the Jewish state is an apartheid country.
Speaking to TJ, Arab Kadima Knesset member Majallie Whbee said his ascent to the position proved that those who draw such a parallel with the former South African regime were ignoring the “facts on the ground”.
And saying he was proud of being an Israeli citizen, the Druze MK also spoke of his wish to show the world that Israel is a democratic country with equal rights.
Whbee will serve as ceremonial President until next Tuesday, while acting president Dalia Itzik is in America. Itzik took over the position from Moshe Katsav after he temporarily suspended himself following the Attorney General’s announcement that he may be indicted on multiple charges including rape.
Whbee, who rose to the rank of colonel during 19 years in a parachute division of the IDF, said: "This is a very historic day and week because it is the first time that a person from the minorities has become the president of Israel.
"The important thing for us is that it shows that we can be counterparts, citizens who have duties and rights. That we actually are a democratic country.”
Former US President Jimmy Carter recently became the latest prominent figure to attach the ‘apartheid’ tag to Israel, but Whbee said he believes the reality couldn't be more different.
"I think my appointment is the example and answer for those who accuse Israel of being an apartheid state. It shows minorities have equal rights and we are part of the government, the state and the parliament.”
But he warned: “Those people who have a very bad attitude towards Israel will continue with their thoughts nevertheless.”
Although he will only hold the position for a week, he said he wanted to use the opportunity to try and make some inroads in the peace process, and had already organised meetings with the Jordanian and Egyptian Ambassadors to Israel.
“I believe I can increase the confidence of the relations between the two sides,” said Whbee, who first entered politics in 1995 as an assistant to then Minister of Infrastructure Ariel Sharon. “I can talk to these representatives more openly and put my points on the table.”
As a Kadima MK Whbee espouses the views of the government and said he was planning to tell the Jordanian and Egyptian ambassadors that he believed there “will be no hope for the peace process” unless Hamas recognises the State of Israel.
Referring to the recent Mecca agreement between Palestinian groups, Whbee was definite in his views. “Israel should absolutely not accept a Palestinian unity government. We are not playing games. We are serious. If they really want us to believe in this agreement they should recognise the existence of Israel and then they can put whatever they wanton the negotiating table,” he said.
While Whbee was clearly proud of his ascension to one of the top positions in Israeli society, he said he was concerned over the state of Israeli politics. As well as the Katsav scandal, in recent months there have been various investigations of corruption and misdoings.
“Of course I would rather I got to this position in other circumstances,” he said. “While I know that it is not the majority, we have some people who making the picture not as pure as it should be. It makes me feel very sorry because I would like to be in a society with representatives who are far from this kind of corruption.”
Whbee admitted Olmert is losing popularity, but said he is standing behind the leader of the Kadima party unless the Winograd Committee, which is investigating the failures of the war with Hezbollah, blames the Prime Minister directly.
“In a democratic state we believe that every mistake should be dealt with in order to correct what needs to be corrected and in order to learn the lessons,” Whbee said. “If we will see Winograd place responsibility on the leadership of the Defence Minister and Prime Minister then the situation will be complicated for the future of the leadership of these two people and then we will decide if they have the responsibility or not. At the moment I do not see any other leader who can lead us.”
Whbee, who is married with four children and lives in the town of Bet Jan in the north of Israel has been in politics for more than a decade. Amongst the many groups he has met with since becoming a politician, he noted that British Jews have been some of the more impressive.
Describing the UK community as “very serious people,” he said: “When they come to deal with the dangers of Israel they seem more serious than the Americans. Perhaps this is because the UK is closer to Israel and maybe there is more anti-semitism in Europe than in America.”