Saul Singer’s ‘Start-up Nation’ highlights Israel’s innovative spirit and the disruptive technology that helped ignite its economy and changed the world for the better. Naftali Bennett, a by-product of that industry, is now disrupting Israel’s democracy and, in many ways, essential elements of its existence.
After breaching almost every core campaign commitment, Naftali Bennett, leading a party of six, accepted the premiership of a government composed of seven vastly different parties, including two factions that he depicted as post- or anti-Zionist prior to the elections.
On the eve of the new government’s formation, concerned with the ramifications of voters feeling betrayed, Bennett reassured Israelis that his intentions were good, that he understood the qualms his government posed, and described the situation as “an experiment.”
Bennett understood that even if a prime minister who received less than 5% of the vote is technically legal, it is terribly illegitimate. He therefore reassured the public in a televised interview that if this government cannot safeguard Israel’s core values, the government will be changed.
A defining moment of the previous government came in legislating the Nationality Law, initiated by former head of the Israeli Security Agency, MK Avi Dichter. The law incorporates key parts of the Declaration of Independence and ratifies Israel as the “national home for the Jewish people.” The long-lasting significance of this achievement may even outweigh the four peace or normalization agreements, the economic revolution, and the vaccinations that the previous government can take claim to. There are 21 sovereign states that define themselves as Christian states (including Denmark, England and Norway), there are a number of large states that define themselves as Islamic states (including Iran and Pakistan) and Israel is the lone Jewish state.
During coalition negotiations, Bennett consulted supporters as to what should be his “red line.” “What cannot be compromised?” he asked. The boldest line drawn was the Nationality Law. The coalition, any coalition, must support the Nationality Law that defines and fortifies Israel as the home of the Jewish people. Bennett agreed to the obvious but caved in real-time. He could not resist the precious PM title and did not insist that the coalition parties pledge allegiance to the Declaration of Independence, as it is reflected in Israel’s Nationality Law.
Last week, even the high court of justice did what Bennett’s government was not willing to do, as it upheld that the Nationality Law as constitutional and democratic.
An important lesson learned from the failed attempt to pass the Citizenship and Entry Law last week is that, like Bennett before her, Ayelet Shaked caved in real time. When push came to shove, the Minister of Internal Affairs was willing to significantly increase the number of non-Jewish immigrants into Israel and enable a silent but steady Palestinian “right of return” into Israel. A Palestinian demand that has, to date, been rebuffed by every Israeli government, both left and right. Had it passed, it would have set another building block for a Palestinian State. Only now, within Israel proper.
For the first time in its history, Israel has a government with ministers who denounce its Declaration of Independence. MK Ahmad Tibi described Bennett’s befuddled government precisely, as the first “Israel-Palestinian government” ever (Hebrew link). A government that cannot make any major decision without prior approval from Islamists, be it from Islamists in the coalition or from those in the opposition. That is not what Israel’s forefathers had in mind when they reestablished the Jewish state and it is not the will of the people, who voted for over 65 (out of 120) parliament members who described themselves as right-wing prior to the elections.
How can Israel demand that the Palestinian Authority recognize Israel as the home of the Jewish people if members in its own government are not willing to do so?
A government formed of parties with completely contrasting views, with the hate of one person and the love of power being their only common values is disruptive to democracy. And an Israeli government that depends on post- and anti-Zionist parties for its survival is destructive to the Jewish State.
Israel is not a startup and the experiment with its democracy and what it defends must be put to an end. Bennett’s bewildered government should be replaced with one that unconditionally supports Israel as a democratic and Jewish state.