Arabs of Israel, help us save the Jewish State

The recent legislation of the Nation State Law is a clear indication that the State of Israel is speeding up its slide into an illiberal morass of illegitimacy that will in real terms mark the beginning of a steep moral decline for the Start-Up Nation. While until now inequality was palpable for certain segments of the population and was suffered quietly most of the time, it was generally considered problematic and efforts, official and otherwise, often not insignificant, were made to counter it. Legislation of the Nation State Law has now changed all that and has basically certified inequality, in direct contradiction to the spirit and vision of the Declaration of Independence (DOI). Indeed, the Nation State Law is a clear challenge to the DOI and a bold effort to overrule it, with emphasis on the call for equality for all which is unceremoniously chucked out the window. In that it is also clearly illegal since the Supreme Court or at least former Chief Judge Aharon Barak is on record stipulating that basic laws cannot be legislated counter to the spirit and the vision of the Declaration of Independence, which is exactly what just happened.

Unfortunately, the Jewish public in Israel tends to a large degree towards the right side of the political spectrum and sees little wrong with the legislation as it was passed in the Knesset. “What’s the big deal” most people say. They may feel a little concerned about the Druze and some even may feel minor pangs of conscience regarding the Beduins,  based on the fact that both demographics serve in the IDF to protect Israel and its Jews. Needless to say, they feel nothing about the Arabs of Israel who mostly do not serve. And why should they feel anything ? Years of systematic incitement by the government against the Arab minority and their representatives in the Knesset have prepared the ground well enough for this discriminatory Nation State Law to be widely accepted. The ongoing friction with the Palestinians in the West Bank and the recurring military exchanges with Gaza further serve to alienate Israelis and make them suspicious of all Arabs.

Now that the government has gone that way, it will not turn back – this law is critical for Netanyahu and he has already indicated that none of the complaints by minorities will move him to withdraw the law or change it. He will try to buy the minority groups off, separately or together by providing them with specific benefits but he is unlikely to change the law.

The implications for this reckless legislation are clear – if Israel is to return to a full democracy (we already have been reduced to an electoral democracy) and not continue on the destructive path that we have started on earlier and have now taken for real, there has to be a change in government that can effect a full cancellation of the Nation State Law. This means that the majority must be formed by a coalition of the moderate left that will include major support by Arab citizens of Israel. Since it is unlikely that the Joint (Arab) List will be able to act as a full partner in such a coalition, in reality this means that a new Jewish-Arab party will have to come into being, one that will be moderate, promote democratic values, an Israeli identity and will cannibalize the Joint List. Such a party and only such a party will be able to garner enough support from the Jewish and Arab public alike to lead the formation of a coalition that can save Israeli democracy. Arabs of Israel, help us save the Jewish State.

About the Author
The author served in the Prime Minister’s Office as a member of the intelligence community, is a member of the Council for Peace and Security and was a candidate in Labor’s 2012 primary election for the Knesset list
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