Non-territorial autonomy, not secession: The Palestinian-Arab minority in the Israeli Jewish-democratic state

Hilly Moodrick Even Khen

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Israel is a diverse state. Its diversity has multiple aspects: religious, social, and national. The two numerically significant national populations in Israel are a Jewish majority (the term ‘Jewish’ referring to a national/ethnic aspect) and a Palestinian-Arab minority, which composes about one-fifth of the population. The major religious communities are Jews, Muslims, Christians, and Druze. The Jewish community is divided into orthodox, conservative, reformists, and seculars. It is also divided socially between Israeli-born citizens (‘Sabra’) and newcomers, mainly from Russia and Ethiopia, who maintain their language and culture. This chapter focuses on the national rift between Jews and Palestinian-Arabs in Israel and its implications for the Palestinian-Arab minority. It does not directly address the other multicultural aspects of Israeli society. However, the diversity of the Jewish community in Israel, on the one hand, and the conservative nature of the Israeli constitutional regime, on the other hand (which is, in many aspects, ‘blind’ to Israeli society’s built-in multicultural structure), have repercussions for the political and social choices the Palestinian-Arab community in Israel can make when considering the options of secession or integration in Israel. Beginning with an analysis of the Israeli constitutional regime, which sets the basis for the discussion in the chapter, the chapter discusses how this regime has practically excluded the Palestinian-Arabs as a group from receiving national group-differentiated rights. In addition, the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people has contributed to the Palestinian-Arabs’ feelings of alienation. The political parties and leaders of the Palestinian-Arabs differed in their responses to these processes. Some encouraged fostering a Palestinian identity, strengthening ties with the Palestinians in the occupied territories, and denying the Jewish identity of Israel, intending to turn it into a binational state. Others, though not identifying with the Zionist project, suggested focusing on the practical conditions of the lives of Palestinian-Arabs in Israel and improving their economic and social welfare rather than dealing with abstract issues of the state’s identity or the plight of the Palestinian people in the occupied territories. Israel’s refusal to account for the national legal group rights of the Palestinian-Arab minority and their exclusion as a group from the constitutional structure of the Israeli democracy would likely have led the Palestinian-Arabs to secede from the state of Israel. However, this option is not feasible. This is because of Israel’s small geographic area and its population’s demographic dispersal, according to which the Palestinian-Arabs are dispersed along the territory of the state and are not concentrated in a specific area that could be disengaged from the current state to establish another. Thus, the more practical solution is to develop the right to internal self-determination for the Palestinian-Arab group and strengthen trends of integration within Israel and the overall Israeli society. This seems to be the direction currently followed by Ra’am – one of the Palestinian-Arab political parties – which is a member of the Israeli government.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationConstitutional Law and Politics of Secession
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781000919295
ISBN (Print)9781032318073
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2023
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 selection and editorial matter, Antoni Abat i Ninet; individual chapters, the contributors.


Dive into the research topics of 'Non-territorial autonomy, not secession: The Palestinian-Arab minority in the Israeli Jewish-democratic state'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this