Fareed speaks with Israel’s economics minister, Naftali Bennett, about the status of Arab Israelis. Watch the full interview this Sunday at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN.
Prime Minister Netanyahu has talked about the importance of the Palestinians recognizing Israel as a Jewish state. You've gone a bit further. You've said that it’s very important to strengthen exclusively the Jewish identity of Israel. What you do with the 20 percent of Arabs who live in Israel if they're not Jewish.
I'm a big supporter of full equal rights for the Arab Israelis. Twenty percent of Israelis are Arab. They vote for the Knesset the same. They can be elected. There are members of parliament, of the Knesset, that are Arab. And I support full equal rights for them.
As a nation-state, Israel is the Jewish nation-state. So if we don't get that recognition from the Palestinians, essentially, they're saying give us our own state and now we want half of your state. Well, it would be one and a half Palestinian states and only half a Jewish state. And they're not willing to recognize that.
No, but how would you feel if a European state were to say, look, we can have other people live in this country, fine. But we are a Christian country and we will only emphasize the Christian character of that country? How would that make the Jews in that country feel? So what I'm asking is about this idea that Israel, in your words, I think, should have an exclusively Jewish identity, as its national identity.
Yes, because I'm talking about the Jewish nation, not the Jewish religion. OK, we're not a theocracy. But France is for French. Yes, France views itself as a French state.
But anyone can be...
…any people can be French even if they're Muslim or Christian or Jewish.
Fine. I'm not talking about religion, I'm talking about the Jews as a nation. Look, the Arabs have 22 countries. We only have one. And it happens to be tiny. From side to side, it's about a 10 minute ride. Do you realize that, from one side to another, 10 minutes? You get in a car and it takes 10 minutes. We've got a tiny state. That's our only place on the entire globe. We've been there for roughly 3,800 years, since Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. That's what we've got.
Do I want to split that and give it over to people who tend to kill us? No, I don't. I think we've got to be reasonable, but at the same time, we have to take care of those Israeli-Arabs. And I want to tell you, the Israeli-Arabs have more rights than any Arabs in the entire region. The Arabs living in Israel have the best human rights than anyone in the region. They vote. They work. They can be anything.
But there are many disparities...
…anything they want.
There are many disparities between them and the Jews in Israel. And, in fact, you got into a bit of a controversy about the water rights of Palestinians. I saw an open letter in Haaretz to you from a Palestinian pointing out that Palestinians are given almost one sixth the amount of water. These are Arabs with Israeli passports in Israel. The education levels are much lower. You know the per capita income of Israeli-Arabs is much lower than that of Israeli Jews.
We've got a lot of work to do. I think, also, in America, there is certain minorities that have lower living standards and you need to invest in it. I myself am minister of economy. I have a huge project of helping Arab women get employed. Only 25 percent of them work. I want 50 and 60 percent. I've opened up 63 employment centers for Arab women across Israel. We're willing to subsidize their vocational studies.
We've got a lot of work. It's a social issue inside of Israel. It exists.
But do they have full equal rights?
They vote in the Knesset. They vote in my parliament. There's Arab members of Knesset. And that's the way it should be. I don't recall that in Saudi Arabia, there's any Jewish members of parliament. I know that all across the region, there's apartheid against other religions. Not in Israel. In Israel, one and a half million Arabs enjoy full, full equal rights – period.
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