Last year, Afula city council voted down a move to incorporate in its municipal boundaries the small Palestinian village of Dahi, saying it wanted to "preserve the city's character". Beforehand, Elkabetz had referred to the council vote as "one of its most critical meetings ever".Judaising the Galilee
Swaid said Afula and other nearby Jewish cities were traditionally seen as "Judaising" or making more Jewish the Galilee, a region that had remained dominated by its Palestinian population since 1948.
"The problem is that after decades of government discrimination Palestinian communities like Nazareth lack lands for future housing," he said.
"Residents have no choice but to seek solutions elsewhere. First they started moving to Nazareth Ilit, now it is Afula. That is provoking a reaction."
Swaid and Khoury noted that Afula's officials felt more confident excluding Palestinian citizens after the parliament passed the Nation State Basic Law last year, which has a constitutional-like status.
According to Article 7 of the law, "the state considers the development of Jewish settlement a national value, and will work to encourage and promote its establishment and strengthening".
Swaid said: "The intention behind the law is to make it possible for cities like Afula to implement segregation."
Ilan Pappe, an Israeli historian and editor of a recent book comparing Israel and apartheid South Africa, said there was widespread support among Israeli Jews for apartheid-style segregation.
A public survey last December revealed that 74 percent were disturbed to hear conversations in Arabic, the mother tongue of a fifth of the population. And 88 percent would be worried if their son befriended an Arab girl.
"The reality today is that you will not a find a single cabinet minister who would be prepared to denounce what Afula is doing," Pappe told MEE.
"Not only that but all of them would understand or support its actions."
A Haaretz editorial last summer, during protests in Afula against house sales to Palestinian citizens, noted that not even Israel's centre-left parties had voiced criticism of the involvement of the mayor and other city officials.
"In Israel " expressions of hatred for Arabs are met with total indifference at best or encouragement at worst," it observed.Template for future
Pappe said it was inevitable that with Israeli politicians no longer even paying lip-service to a two-state solution, policies inside Israel would grow more like those in the occupied territories.
"The right's argument is that there is no difference between the parts of Palestine seized in 1948, which are today Israel, and those occupied in 1967," he told MEE. "For them, they are the same, they are all Greater Israel.
"The result is that policies towards Palestinian citizens increasingly look the same as those faced by Palestinians under occupation. All will face the same kind of apartheid. The Nation State Law was a template for the future."