Now is the time for a revolution in Israeli politics

If the members of this proposed coalition can focus on the areas where their party platforms align, surely a way can be found to bring Yisrael Beytenu into the fold.

By DANIEL KAMIN
September 18, 2019 21:45
4 minute read.
Now is the time for a revolution in Israeli politics

. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

The results of this week’s election yielded a potential coalition of five parties that could be nothing short of revolutionary, a Tuv Yisrael (“Better Israel”) government.

The Blue and White Party, Labor-Gesher and the Democratic Union are natural political partners for a governing center-left coalition.

But there is only one path to power for a government that includes these three parties. They must bring in two parties that are seemingly at opposite ends of the political spectrum: Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and Ayman Odeh’s Joint List (of four Arab-majority parties).

The election results give these five parties a minimum of 61 seats, just enough for a majority in Israel’s 120-seat Knesset.

The State of Israel has two overriding issues that supplant all others.

First and foremost is the Palestinian issue, the challenge of realizing Palestinian self-determination in the face of right-wing Israeli opposition and widespread Palestinian rejection of Israel’s right to exist.

The realization of Palestinian national rights is a paramount issue for the Joint List.

Most other Israeli security issues, including regional threats by Iran and its proxies, are inextricably linked to the Palestinian issue.

The other issue is the religious-secular divide between ultra-Orthodox haredim and most Israeli Jews. A vast majority of Israelis resent both the religious coercion of the haredim and their exemption from military service.

This popular position is a paramount issue for Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu.

These five parties are more aligned on these central issues than they are with any other parties that won seats in Tuesday’s vote.

Why, then, does such a pragmatic coalition of these five parties seem so impossible, despite their shared majority of the Knesset?

In Liberman’s case, it is because the others see him as a demagogue whose past rhetoric puts him at odds with Palestinian-Israelis as much as with the haredim.

Yet Liberman is also a maverick who has long advocated territorial compromise with the Palestinians.

If the members of this proposed coalition can focus on the areas where their party platforms align, surely a way can be found to bring Yisrael Beytenu into the fold.

On both of the paramount issues in question, Blue and White is a more natural partner for Yisrael Beytenu than the Likud, with or without Benjamin Netanyahu.

The real stickler is how to integrate the non-Zionist, Arab Joint List into a Tuv Yisrael coalition. This party, after all, cannot be expected to put Jewish nationalism ahead of their own people’s desire for self-determination.

Here, too, there is a way out that makes sense for the liberal Zionist parties and for the Joint List. That strategy is to commit to fostering a spirit of compromise through mutual respect and tolerance.

AYMAN ODEH’S Joint List does not need to become a Zionist party; it need only affirm that it is an Israeli one. The Joint List must make the historic decision to label itself non-Zionist, as opposed to anti-Zionist. They must make a small but fateful turn toward many liberal Israelis who support Palestinian rights and a Palestinian state alongside Israel, even as they themselves are not Palestinian nationalists.

A defining objective of the Joint List is full and equal rights for Palestinian-Israeli citizens of Israel. This goal can also be championed by the other four parties as well, including Yisrael Beytenu. That party should have little trouble distancing itself from past rhetoric in the face of realizing so much of its platform and getting a seat in government largely on its terms.

These five parties must focus on their collective responsibility to put the Israeli government on a committed path to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The groundwork for such an effort has already been laid, most recently in the 2014 American-brokered negotiations, so the new government will not be starting from scratch.

Alas, one can already hear Israeli detractors talk about the lack of a Palestinian partner for such an effort. That may well be the case, though certainly the government proposed here would pose a challenge to Palestinian intransigence.

But this coalition is based on what is best for Israel, so that the country can put its best foot forward, to bring some progress on these issues that have left Israel in a protracted stalemate for far too long.

A Tuv Yisrael government will try to live up to the ideals set forth in Israel’s Declaration of Independence.

That founding document calls for a state that not only “will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants,” but specifically calls “upon the Arab inhabitants... to... play their part in the development of the state, on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its bodies and institutions – provisional and permanent.”

Now is the time to make this declaration a reality.

It is incumbent on every voting member of each of these five parties to realize the tremendous responsibility they are facing. As of today, they cannot blame Netanyahu, the Likud, the haredim, or any other Israelis for any lack of progress on these two all-encompassing issues. The Israeli electorate has given them the accountability of a parliamentary majority. The power to change Israel for the better is in their hands.

The writer is an adjunct professor at the DePaul University Department of International Studies.


Related Content

October 15, 2019
An indecent proposal

By JOSH MARKS

Cookie Settings