a different side of Israel

The Palestinian Prime Minister’s Three Israeli Sisters

Ismail Haniyeh
Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader who was recently elected prime minister of the Palestinian Authority. Credit: Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Never let it be said that life in the Middle East lacks irony. According to this article, Ismail Haniyeh, the recently elected prime minister of the Palestinian Authority, has three sisters who are Israeli citizens.

Haniyeh is a senior activist in Hamas, the Islamist party with a charter that calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. Hamas was behind many suicide bombings against Israeli civilians; for the past few months it has held to a declared truce, but the party refused to condemn the April 17 suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that was committed by the Islamic Jihad, calling it a legitimate act of self-defense. Hamas is on the U.S. State Department’s list of terrorist organizations.

But Haniyeh’s three Israeli sisters, who refused to be photographed or interviewed for the article, don’t have much to say about their militant brother. They live in the Bedouin village of Tel Sheva, near Be’er Sheva. According to their neighbours, the sisters are “generous and nice.”

“They are known and lend a helping hand when needed. They live in good houses and their financial situation is excellent. Two live close to one another.”

Salam Abu-Rakik, former head of the Tel Sheva council, and a successful businessman said that “Ismail’s sisters are much respected in the village.” Abu-Rakik is related to the Ismail Haniyeh’s sisters.

“Two of them have a lot of children, and all – I have to say – are successful. Some of them are successful businessmen, others are successful in education, and all are good people and respected in the community,” Abu-Rakik said.

According to the article, Haniyeh used to visit his sisters before the intifada – when travel between Gaza and Israel was relatively easy. But they haven’t seen him for years, and have no intention of relocating to Gaza.

Abu-Rakik says:

“Despite familial relation with people in Gaza, I see myself as a loyal citizen of the State of Israel. It is good for us here, and we are faithful to the States’ laws. However, I wouldn’t be ashamed if a relative was elected as the prime minister of Palestine.”

One of the sisters’ sons said: “Maybe we can be a bridge for peace between the two people.”


  1. The story of Haniyeh and his sisters demonstrates
    the missed oportunities by the Palestinians,
    things could have been so much different if they
    would be more realistic and forget their dreams
    of eliminating Israel.

  2. Haniyeh and his sisters are one of many Palestinian families living on both sides of
    the fence,they should try and work towards
    better relations between the two peoples.

  3. To Jack B.

    Indeed a more realistic position by the Palestinians would have made things better for everyone. Some in the Arab world already understand that though they would stop short of admitting it fully for obvious reasons. See:

  4. Jack B. why couldn’t the Israelis just recognize 1948-Palestine instead of violently taking over Palestine?

    before Jews wanted a state of their own Christians Muslims and Jews lived together peacefully. So who’s fault is it really?

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