From the New York Times:
Israelis eager to end Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s career won a slim majority in last week’s election.
But one thing has kept them from uniting to send him packing: A sizable chunk of the anti-Netanyahu majority consists of Arab lawmakers, and the Jewish ones cannot agree on whether to consider them partners or the enemy.
Mr. Netanyahu says the Arab bloc includes lawmakers who support terrorism and oppose Israel’s self-definition as a Jewish state.
His opponents, led by the former army chief Benny Gantz, who held coalition talks with Arab party leaders on Monday, say a vote is a vote, and that Mr. Netanyahu is happy to rely on those same lawmakers when it suits him.
But even some of Mr. Gantz’s supporters balk at teaming up with Arab politicians, saying that a state established to protect the Jewish people, and still in conflict with the Palestinians, cannot entrust weighty policy decisions to people whose sympathies may be with the other side.
The roiling debate, which has set back the effort to depose Mr. Netanyahu and could force Israel to hold a record fourth election, turns on a question at the heart of the country’s existence as a democratic and Jewish state:
Are the votes of Arab citizens worth as much as those of Jews?
No, that is not the question. And it is insulting to say that is the question.
The question is whether a political party that is against the founding tenets of Israel, that is against the existence of an Arab state, should be considered a partner in a governing coalition of a state whose reason for existence fundamentally oppose.
The major parties in Israel have had Arab members. No one has a problem with that.
The “Joint List” includes the Israeli Communist party Hadash which has one current Jewish member of Parliament. That doesn’t make its positions as part of the Joint List any more palatable to most Israelis.
Here’s the thought experiment that proves that the NYT thesis that assumes Israeli racism is wrong: Imagine a moderate Arab party that accepts the concept of a Jewish state and that seeks to join a coalition to push an agenda of helping fight for equality for all Arabs in Israel. Not only would Labor eagerly work with it, not only would Kachol Lavan work with it, but even Likud would negotiate with it to be part of a coalition. The fact that they are Arabs is not the issue – as long as they accept that Israel is the Jewish state, no one would have a problem with that.
Yes, Israeli politicians have an unfortunate tendency to lump all Arabs as voting for the “Arab party.” But Israel is some 20% Arab and the Joint List gets about 13% of the vote, which means that (assuming that Arabs vote in roughly the same proportion as Jews) plenty of Arabs are voting for Zionist parties.
I would welcome a moderate Arab party being active in Israeli politics. I think most Israelis would. If they were racist, they wouldn’t.
(h/t David B)
We have lots of ideas, but we need more resources to be even more effective. Please donate today to help get the message out and to help defend Israel.