“Israel has to decide between two approaches: One sees it as the Jewish national state, which grants full equal rights to everyone, and the second posits that two communities reside in Israel, Jews and Palestinians, and that the country in its current metamorphosis needs to be binational in the vein of the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939). A country that not only has civic and human equal rights, but also collective equality, inherently means that the established arrangement from 1948 needs to be changed.”
The comments were made four-and-a-half years ago by Zvi Hauser, one of the engines behind the historic nation-state bill passed by the Knesset late Wednesday night and into Thursday. Israel’s development over the past generation, particularly in recent years, was along the path leading to the second option, a binational state. The Supreme Court altered the nature of the Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty to allow a haven for Arab nationalism inside Israel.
Israel fell into the artificial categorization of “Jewish and democratic.” However, in the spirit of the Israel Democracy Institute, the High Court of Justice and NGOs such as Adalah and others, “Jewish and democratic” is essentially used as cover to mean “Jewish and Arab”—Arab nationalism that supports terrorism and radical Islamism, defended in an Orwellian manner in the name of “democracy.”
Lest there be any doubt, if Israel were not a Jewish state, it would not be democratic. Democracy in Israel leans on a naturally law-abiding and tolerant Jewish public. But as evidenced by the passing of the nation-state bill, the Joint Arab List is the one exploiting the hallowed hall of Israeli democracy, the Knesset, to desecrate this institution at every opportunity.
Hiding behind the objections to the law, such as the miserable statements voiced by Reform groups in the United States or by the New Israel Fund, are the tired tropes of objection to Jewish influence. This is the anti-Jewish legacy bequeathed by Germany to the Western world, which many Jews in the United States and in Israel have internalized. According to this legacy, there is something unnatural, unjust and “anti-democratic” about Jewish culture and Jewish identity.
At this stage, the new law does nothing more than apply the brakes to a car that was skidding down the slope of binationalism. The left has put the law out of bounds, and under the influence of radicals has created the political polarization it has always been looking for. There is no subject which strengthens Israel that the left can’t make “controversial,” and as a result we have the ideological terrorism that brings many good people to their knees.
The two key figures in this are MKs Benny Begin (Likud) and Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union). It’s difficult to see any real reason why these two did not support the law. Equality in Israel is anchored in a series of High Court rulings, as well as in the Declaration of Independence. To give real weight to the nation-state bill, it did not mention the word “equality.”
Begin’s version watered down the bill so much as to make it superfluous. But beyond Begin and Livni, the fact that the bill did not have the support of the center and the left is a real problem. It seems that here, too, the fear of the justices of the Supreme Court and some in the media seized members of the Labor party and Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid Party.
The lack of consensus on both sides of the aisle plays into the hands of the right. In my opinion, a large part of the Zionist public appears to have been delivered into the hands of Likud and its coalition partners. The passage of the bill is a watershed moment, mostly because the mental block was overcome. The credit goes to MK Avi Dichter, who pushed the bill ahead step by step. He thought he would get it passed before Passover, but then the ultra-Orthodox and Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman became less enthusiastic about holding an early election. No big deal; a delay of four months doesn’t matter.
Now we are witnessing a new reality: A new kind of opposition has arisen in Israel, one that is trying to establish two states under one roof. The Knesset and the justice system now have a tool they can wield to prevent that from happening.
Amnon Lord, is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper Makor Rishon. His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in The Jerusalem Post, Mida, Azure, Nativ and Achshav.