Coalition chairman says he is open to talks about rewording the Jewish State Law, says it’s up to Lapid to change his behavior.
By Arlene Kushner
Prime Minister Netanyahu is pushing hard for passage of Basic Law legislation that will declare unambiguously that Israel is a Jewish state. And the furor that is on-going with regard to this is incredible. He is accused of being “undemocratic,” which is patently nonsense.
The Elder of Ziyon blogspot has put up the full draft version of this legislation. This is the draft Netanyahu prefers, although it may change. It says that its goal is:
“Defining the State of Israel as the national state of the Jewish People, and anchoring the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state in the spirit of the principles of the Declaration of Independence.”
It declares that:
“The State of Israel is democratic, based on the foundations of freedom, justice and peace in light of the visions of the prophets of Israel, and upholds the individual rights of all its citizens according to law.”
“The State will act to enable all residents of Israel, regardless of religion, race or nationality, to preserve their culture, heritage, language and identity.”
“…members of recognized faiths shall be entitled to rest on their Sabbaths and holidays.”
So what do Netanyahu’s critic’s object to? It says that Israel is the national home of the Jewish People, in which the Jewish People realizes it right to self-determination. It identifies Hatikva as the national anthem, says the flag has a Star of David on it, recognizes all Jews as having the right to immigrate.
And this, say the complainers, makes non-Jews “second class citizens.”
But wait! The Mandate described Palestine as the Homeland of the Jews, and acknowledged national rights of self-determination only for the Jewish people, with non-Jews having equal protection with regard to individual civil and religious rights only. This is not new.
And if we look at the Resolution 181 of the General Assembly that recommended a partition of Palestine: one state was to be a Jewish state. Have they not noticed this?
What’s going on now is political, an attempt by Netanyahu’s critics inside of Israel to play to the Arabs and the greater world: “See? See how liberal and fair I am! See how I protect the Arab minority in Israel. See, you can trust me to get along with you.”
Of course, there is the chorus of criticism from outside of Israel by members of the EU and others. But, while we don’t expect much from the EU, we have a right to expect better from Israeli politicians.
There are those who ponder why Netanyahu is making quite the fuss over this that he is. He is furious with both Tzipi Livni (head of Hatenua) and Yair Lapid (head of Yesh Atid), who are members of the coalition but have publicly crossed the prime minister on this issue. He says he cannot govern with members of the coalition defying coalition discipline and behaving as if they are in the opposition.
Thus there has been serious talk about his dissolving the Knesset and bringing early elections (perhaps by March). He has been courting the Ultra Orthodox parties vigorously, for he would hope to bring them into a new coalition in place of Yesh Atid and Hatenua.
Last week I would have put my money on early elections. Today I’m not so sure. Netanyahu is delaying calling for a vote on the legislation and is seeking wording that would be agreeable to all.
His reason for persisting on this? There are suggestions that what he is doing is political: That he sees the public support for his party, Likud, slipping in the polls, while Naftali Bennett’s party, Habayit Hayehudi, is garnering greater support. And that he is therefore making an all out effort to take a stand sure to be pleasing to the right wing that is favoring Bennett. What is more, goes this thinking, he is provoking a coalition crisis that will lead to new elections, because he thinks he’ll do better in elections now than he would some months from now.
I know full well that Binyamin Netanyahu is a political animal, and there may be some modest truth in what is being said. I, however, read a great deal more into this. I believe he knows what international efforts are afoot to delegitimize Israel and so believes that it is essential to codify our nature as a state unambiguously and up front.
Please, see what Gerald Steinberg, professor of political science at Bar Ilan University and president of NGO Monitor, has to say about this situation (emphasis added):
“In the debate on the proposed ‘Jewish state law,’ much of the criticism erases the context that brought this issue to the political center at this time. Claims of ‘racism’ and ‘discrimination’ that have echoed through the media and in the Knesset reduce an important and complex issue to simplistic and misleading slogans…
”This initiative cannot be understood without considering the ongoing campaigns to erode and eventually erase the essential Jewish framework of Zionism. For a number of years, anti-Zionist political groups and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have sought to reverse the definition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, and replace it by a state ‘of all of its citizens.’
“…claims that a Jewish state is somehow racist or a theocracy ignore the fact that the 28 members of the European Union (plus Norway and Switzerland) are Christian societies, with symbols, flags, calendars, and, as in Britain, an established Church. Similarly, there are over 55 countries that define themselves as Islamic, and a number are, in fact, theocracies. Thus, the attempts to single out Israel for criticism are themselves highly discriminatory.
“For all of these reasons, the political agenda reflects the importance of reinforcing Israel’s fundamental Jewish and Zionist identity, based on the 1948 Declaration of Independence, which defines Israel clearly and repeatedly as ‘the Jewish state.’ And while different formulae exist in order to reach this objective, opponents who resort to false slogans such as ‘racism’ are contributing to the problem.”
Two days ago, in an emergency session of the Arab League in Cairo, Abbas declared:
”We will never recognize the Jewishness of the state of Israel.” He accused Israel of setting up an apartheid state.
So there you have it. It is in response to this sort of thinking that Netanyahu seems determined to take his stand.