National Minority, Regional Majority: Palestinian Arabs Versus Jews in Israel, by Yitzhak Reiter. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2009. 403 pp. $49.95.
National Minority, Regional Majority is an ambitious book written by a scholar who has both academic experience and government service. He was the Israeli Prime Minster's deputy advisor on Arab affairs from 1978 to 1987. The book provides insights into a variety of issues related to present-day Israel studies. Students of Israeli domestic policies concerning Palestinian citizens will be most served by it.
The book is focused on providing an understanding of the dynamic relationship between Jewish and Palestinian citizens in Israel. It is organized in a fairly straightforward manner and provides useful conclusions on the topic. The study, in the words of Mr. Reiter, seeks to add a new dimension of analysis, interlocking conflict, to the body of work already engaged with the subject. The framework employed analyzes the relationship between Jewish and Palestinian citizens in Israel and the impact on it by the Israel-Palestinian conflict, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and great power conflicts in the Middle East region (p. xiii).
The chapters of the book are organized around two bookends. One is a historical narrative and the other some conclusions. Chapters in between, on individual Israeli governments and their treatment of Palestinian citizens of Israel, make up the bulk of the study. The best chapter is number seven,"Peace and Affirmative Action," which details the Oslo Process and the lead up to the Second Intifada. It is the most analytical chapter of the book.
The final chapter in the study offers thoughtful suggestions for the way forward for Jewish and Palestinian Israeli relations. These are largely focused on how Israel can continue to be a self-professed Jewish and democratic state with a significant non-Jewish minority. From his analysis, Mr. Reiter maintains that the government of Israel needs to be more mindful of the needs of the Palestinian community if it hopes to avoid a full-scale reproach of the idea of being both Jewish and democratic. He implies that had Israel been more aware of the needs of Palestinian Israelis they would have been less inclined towards Land Day 1976 protests, a rallying cry now for equal rights by Palestinians in Israel, and solidarity with the first and second intifadas (p. 296). This conclusion is similar to one made concerning Israel's occupational overreach in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Neve Gordon in Israel's Occupation (2008).
Unfortunately, the limitations of the book place it within a category of literature that is broadly defined as status quo. Reiter is clearly comfortable with government nomenclature. Calling Palestinian Israeli citizens Arabs and Israeli Arabs throughout the book is a case in point. …