This week a meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and now-ousted Finance Minister Yair Lapid (leader of the Yesh Atid party), which was intended as a bid to salvage Israel’s coalition government, has ended in a stalemate. A new election is now expected in the country, as JNS.org previously reported.
Netanyahu then fired Lapid, as well as Hatnuah leader and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Part of the disagreement between Netanyahu and Lapid centered on legislation approved by the Israeli cabinet at the end of November cementing Israel’s status as a Jewish state. The bill confirms that Israel is the national home of the Jewish people and a place where Jews have the historical right to realize their aspiration for self-determination.
This right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to Jews, the legislation states, though the civil rights of all minorities in Israel are also protected. Just before the cabinet vote, the language of the bill was amended to describe Israel as both a democratic and Jewish state, and an addition was made that Arabic would remain an official language of the state of Israel.
“Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. There are those who wish to see the democratic aspect overshadow the Jewish aspect, and there are those who wish to see the Jewish aspect overshadow the democratic aspect. The principles of the bill that I present here today ensure that these two values are equal and are given equal consideration,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said before the bill’s passage in the cabinet.
However, Lapid and Livni both opposed the law. “The bill submitted today puts the Jewish state before democracy,” Lapid said is a speech at Tel Aviv University in November according to Haaretz. “Neither I, nor the Yesh Atid party, will vote for the law.”
Israeli Arab MK Ahmad Tibi also criticized the bill on CNN this week, stating that “the nationality bill is totally proof of what I said during the last decades: that in Israel, Israel is democratic towards Jews and Jewish towards Arabs.”
In the midst of this political turmoil, comes an interesting political surprise in the form of Muslim Arab resident of northern Israel Anat Haskia, who has announced her candidacy for the primaries of the Habayit Hayehudi (Jewish Home) Party. The party is chaired by Naftali Bennett and has supported the Jewish State bill along with Netanyahu’s Likud party.
Haskia, all of whose children served in the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), posted on her Facebook page Thursday, “I have decided to join the Jewish Home party. In order to get on the list of candidates I need you to join. Together we will fight against the incitement emanating from the Arab community, and encourage more young Arabs to identify with the state of Israel.”
Haskia’s position represents the complicated reality of Israeli politics, which involves many disagreements among people and politicians of all political spectrums, and different faiths. She also stands out in a community of Muslim Arab citizens of Israel and Palestinians who tend to be critical of the Israeli government, and in some cases violently hostile toward Israel, as showcased by a string of recent terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, most recently a stabbing attack by Palestinians at an Israeli supermarket east of Jerusalem in Judea and Samaria Wednesday.
Those Israeli Arabs who tend to hold more favorable views toward the Israeli government are most often Christian or Druze. The Druze in Israel have a tradition of serving in the IDF, and Arab-Christian leaders, such as Greek-Orthodox Father Gabriel Nadaf, have been campaigning for Christians to volunteer to serve in the Israeli army.
Recently the Israeli government recognized the official ethnicity of Christians in Israel as “Aramean” instead of Arab, a decision praised by leaders such as Nadaf as a way of separating themselves from the anti-Israel mentality of many Muslim Arabs, and as a way of developing a more positive relationship with Israel.
“Jews who seek change in Arab attitudes should help me, by empowering me to fight in the Knesset against other Arab MKs” who are critical of the Israeli government, Haskia also wrote on Facebook.
“Now is the time to support me…And if you are already Jewish Home members and plan to support my candidacy I would love to hear from you,” Haskia said, as translated from Hebrew by the Israel National News.