Arabs in Israel
- Israel's Declaration of Independence commits to "foster the development of the country for the benefit of all inhabitants . . . based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel." Israel's non-Jewish citizenry is composed mainly of the Arabs who remained in what became Israel after the 1949 armistice agreements and their descendants. By 2005, that group had grown to some 1.35 million, or 18 percent of the overall population, primarily as a result of a high birthrate. The Muslim population, which constitutes about three fourths of the non-Jewish population, is predominantly Sunni. Christians constitute about 14 percent of the non-Jewish population. Greek Catholics and Greek Orthodox constitute more than 70 percent of that number, but there are also Roman Catholics, Maronites, Armenians, Protestants, and Anglicans.The non-Jewish communities have special status, similar to that enjoyed under the Ottoman millet system. After Israel's War of Independence (1948—49) and the 1949 armistice agreements, the activities of the Arab community were regarded primarily as concerns of Israel's security system, and most of the areas inhabited by the Arabs were placed under military control. Military government was established in those districts, and special defense and security zones were created. Israel's Arabs were granted citizenship with full legal equality but were forbidden to travel into or out of security areas without permission of the military. Those who argued in support of the military administration saw it as a means of controlling the Arab population and of preventing infiltration from neighboring hostile Arab states, sabotage, and espionage. It was argued that the very existence of the military administration was an important deterrent measure. However, as it became clear that Israel's Arabs were not disloyal and as Israel's security situation improved, pressure for relaxation and then for total abolition of military restrictions on Israel's Arabs grew in the Knesset and in public debate. The extensive restrictions were gradually modified, and on 1 December 1966, military government was abolished. Functions that had been exercised by the military government were transferred to relevant civilian authorities.The non-Jewish community has undergone other substantial changes since 1948. Education has become virtually universal. Local authority has grown, and through the various local authorities, the Arabs have become involved in local decision-making and provision of services. The traditional life of the Arab has been altered by new agricultural methods and increased employment in other sectors of the economy—especially industry, construction, and services. Social and economic improvements have included more urbanization, modernization of villages, better infrastructure, improved health care, and expanded educational opportunities.
Historical Dictionary of Israel. Bernard Reich David H. Goldberg. Edited by Jon Woronoff..
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