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Maghar becomes Israel’s first Druze city

Interior Minister Shaked makes announcement during meeting with leaders of Druze and Circassian local authorities; Ra’am party, whose chief lives there, claims he asked for change

Stuart Winer is a breaking news editor at The Times of Israel.

Screen capture from video of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, center, announcing that Maghar had become the first Druze city in Israel, October 26, 2021. (Twitter)
Screen capture from video of Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, center, announcing that Maghar had become the first Druze city in Israel, October 26, 2021. (Twitter)

Maghar, in the north of the country, on Tuesday became Israel’s first Druze city as Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked upgraded its status from local council.

Shaked made the announcement during a meeting with leaders of Druze and Circassian local authorities in the Druze town of Sajur, taking Maghar Mayor Fareed Ghanem, who was sitting next to her, by surprise.

“In my opinion, any local authority that proves itself in development, streamlining organizational processes, economic growth and increasing self-income will receive assistance from us in growing and creating new capabilities,” Shaked said at the meeting.

Maghar, she said, had “proven itself.”

The development, she added, is further proof of the “courageous and strong ties between the Druze and Jewish peoples.”

An Interior Ministry committee had recommended the change from a local council to city status due to the implementation by Maghar authorities of “planning, economic, and organizational processes” that meet ministry requirements for the change.

Maghar, with a Druze majority alongside Christian and Muslim minorities, has a population of around 24,000 people, with development plans that are expected to see that number rise to 30,000 in the coming years.

It is the hometown of MK Mansour Abbas, leader of Ra’am, an Arab party that is in the governing coalition.

Abbas himself had asked for the change to Maghar’s status, the Kan public broadcaster reported Tuesday, citing Ra’am sources.

Ra’am has also asked that the Arab towns of Kafr Kanna and Yafa an-Naseriyye in the Lower Galilee be declared cities, the sources said.

A statement on behalf of Shaked to the station said that Maghar becoming a city “was an initiative and decision of the interior minister” and that Abbas had been updated on the development.

The Druze population, numbering about 140,000 out of Israel’s 9.5 million people, are respected for their military service. The overwhelming majority of those eligible serve in the IDF.

Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamist Ra’am party, speaks to a crowd in the northern town of Maghar on March 26, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Ra’am, the first Arab party to enter the government in decades, has used its unique position to push for an end to neglect in Arab communities.

It has threatened to vote against the government if commitments made in coalition agreements are not kept.

Last week it was reported that Ra’am had clashed with Shaked over funding for Arab locales, which Ra’am has been fighting for.

The squabble was resolved as a November deadline to pass a national budget looms.

The governing coalition is made up of just 61 members, giving it the thinnest possible majority in the 120-seat Knesset and giving Ra’am or any other party the power to bring down the government by pulling out of it.

Failure to pass the budget in second and third readings in the Knesset plenum by a November 14 deadline would automatically dissolve parliament and trigger elections.

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