Israeli minister seeks to swap Druze director with Likud member

Israeli minister seeks to swap Druze director with Likud member
Israel's culture and sports minister is trying to push out the head of a Druze organisation to replace him with a Likud party member.
2 min read
05 October, 2023
There are around 150,000 Arab Druze in Israel, constituting one of the country's smaller minorities [Getty]

Israel's culture and sports minister is trying to replace the chair of the Council of the Druze Heritage Centre, Kamil Abo Rokan, with an ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, an Israeli publication has reported.

Minister Miki Zohar has already made budget cuts to the Druze Heritage Center - a government-run corporation that aims to preserve Druze culture in Israel - with the aim of pushing out Abo Rokan.

The favourite to replace Abo Rokan is Mahdi Nasralden, the director general and treasurer of the mainly Druze Kisra-Sumei municipality in northern Israel. But Nasralden reportedly declined Zohar's offer to head the centre, according to Haaretz.

"[He] announced he was turning down the appointment and wanted Kamil Abu Rokan to remain in the position," read a statement from Zohar’s office, as quoted by Haaretz.

"The matter of the corporation’s budget is at the sole discretion of the minister and he will make decisions on the matter in the near future."

Nasralden has been an active Likud party member, signing up hundreds of people to the party, hence why he was a top pick for the job, according to the Israeli daily.

Fateen Mulla, a former Likud Knesset member, is another potential candidate.

The culture minister in Israel does not have power to fire the centre's chair, which is why Zohar is reportedly trying to create a difficult situation for the current chair Abo Rokan so that the latter will step down on his own, the report added.

Abo Rokan had complained to Zohar about the minister's decision to make budget cuts to the centre, saying it "has adversely affected employee salaries, obligations to suppliers and the centre’s activities", according to Haaretz.

Work on a museum in the northern Israeli Druze village of Yanuh-Jat has also been stopped because of the budget cuts.

Tensions between Israel’s Druze and the state have been festering for years, becoming more visible with Israel’s introduction of the 2017 Kaminitz legislation and the controversial 2018 Nation-State law.

Earlier this year, Druze living in the occupied Golan Heights clashed with Israeli forces over a government plan to build a wind farm.

Israel is home to roughly 150,000 Arab Druze, an esoteric and ancient ethnoreligious community. Unlike Christian and Muslim Palestinians, the Druze are obliged to serve in the Israeli army and enjoy relatively more civil rights and freedoms.