Roughly 21% of Israel’s more than eight million citizens are Arabs. The vast majority of the Israeli Arabs - 81% - are Muslims. Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs currently hold ten seats in the Knesset. Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts.
Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel. At the time of Israel’s founding, only one Arab high school was operating, today, there are hundreds of Arab schools. Most Arabs attend these schools.
The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. This was to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, many Arabs have volunteered for military duty and the Druze and Circassian communities are subject to the draft.
Some economic and social gaps between Israeli Jews and Arabs result from the latter not serving in the military. Veterans qualify for many benefits and jobs not available to non-veterans. Moreover, the army aids in the socialization process. On the other hand, Arabs do have an advantage obtaining some jobs during the years Israelis are in the military. In addition, industries like construction and trucking have come to be dominated by Israeli Arabs.
While there is no institutional segregation, Jews and Arabs have chosen to live separately in all but a handful of cities. Israelis all recognize that Arab villages have historically received less funding than Jewish areas and this has affected the quality of Arab schools, infrastructure and social services. Arabs are also underrepresented in higher education and most industries.
Israeli Jews and Arabs have surprisingly little contact with each other. Most young people study at different elementary and secondary schools and may not come into contact with one another until college; by then, many preconceived opinions have been formed. This lack of interaction exacerbates tensions between the two communities.
Israeli Arabs also face their own conflicts as Palestinians in a Jewish state. While identifying with the Palestinian people and disputing Israel's identification as a Jewish state, they see their future tied to Israel. They have adopted Hebrew as a second language and Israeli culture as an extra layer in their lives. At the same time, they strive to attain a higher degree of participation in national life, greater integration into the economy and more benefits for their own towns and villages.
Although Israeli Arabs have occasionally been involved in terrorist activities, they have generally behaved as loyal citizens. During Israel’s wars, none engaged in acts of sabotage or disloyalty. In some instances, Arabs volunteered to take over civilian functions for reservists.
There are twenty employment centres established around Israel to help the Arab, Druze, and Circassian minorities find employment and receive assistance. According to the Israeli Ministry of the Economy statistics for 2015, 8,000 new Arab, Druze, and Circassian participants sought help or assistance from these employment centres. In total these centres have helped 13,600 members of Israeli minority groups find employment, and have provided assistance for more than 24,000 individuals. Approximately 68% of candidates who have come into the employment centres since they were established in 2012 have found jobs.
The number of Israeli-Arab teachers in Israel's state schools increased by 40% between 2013 and 2016, as reported by Israel's Education Ministry in August 2016. According to the Ministry, 420 Arab-Israelis taught in Israel's state schools in 2013, compared to 588 during the 2016 school year. The school subjects that experienced the largest jump were english, math and science, which all experienced a 76% increase in the number of Arab-Israeli teachers. The number of Israeli-Arab Arabic language instructors also increased by 40% during this time span.
The cadet course of the Israeli Foreign Ministry accepted their first Arab-Muslim woman in March 2017. 31-year-old Rasha Uthmani was nominated to be the spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Turkey, and has previously served as part of an Israeli delegation to the United Nations. Israeli Muslim men have served as Israeli ambassadors, but never a Muslim woman.