Israel needs unity, not provocations, now more than anything - editorial

Both extremes think that restraint and tolerance are signs of weakness. They can't be more wrong.

 PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett shakes hands with MK Mansour Abbas in the Knesset. Large parts of the Jewish population do not recognize Israel’s Arabs as equal citizens. (photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)
PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett shakes hands with MK Mansour Abbas in the Knesset. Large parts of the Jewish population do not recognize Israel’s Arabs as equal citizens.
(photo credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

On Saturday, Yahya Sinwar, Hamas’s leader in the Gaza Strip, was doing his regular schtick – sitting in front of the cameras and threatening the State of Israel.

But this time, there was something different. For the first time since the Naftali Bennett’s government took over, Sinwar called on Ra’am (the United Arab List) to walk out of the coalition.

“Serving as a support to this government, which violates al-Aqsa, is an unforgivable crime,” Sinwar said. “Serving as a safety net for this government is a crime for which you will never be forgiven. You are rejecting your religion, your Arab identity, and your national identity.”

Ra’am leader Mansour Abbas – who is the first Arab party leader since independence in 1948 to join the government – responded to Sinwar’s comments in an uncompromising and clear way: “We won’t be scolded by him,” Abbas said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett was satisfied with Sinwar’s speech, and saw it as a boost to his government, thinking that if your enemy is against you, you are probably doing something right.

 Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, May 1, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Prime Minister Naftali Bennett at the cabinet meeting, May 1, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

Bennett said at the beginning of the weekly cabinet meeting on Sunday that “this is an important point when the masks come off, and it is clear who wants what.” 

“The fact that Hamas wants to topple our government says everything. We cannot let Hamas win,” he added.

Bennett then said that Sinwar does not like an Israeli government that improves the lives of Arab-Israeli citizens, advances coexistence, and does not give Hamas “suitcases of dollars” like its predecessor did.

But it’s not only that. 

We can assume that Hamas, a fanatical-radical Islamist movement that has called for Israel’s destruction, is freaking out at the fact that an Arab party is participating in a government in “the Zionist entity.”

And it’s not just an Arab party – it’s an Islamist party that is rooted in one of the branches of the Islamic Movement in Israel. 

Mansour Abbas said on Saturday that “we [Ra’am] believe the processes of partnership and tolerance that we are leading in Israel will bring peace between Israel and the Palestinian people closer.”

During the unrest in the mixed cities in May 2021, Abbas was a voice of moderation while Palestinian nationalists were trying to fan the flames.

Since his decision to break away from the Joint List and adopt a pragmatic attitude, he reminds the public, in both Hebrew and Arabic, that he is here to do what is best for the Arab citizens of Israel.

On the other hand, Bennett is heavily criticized for coopting Ra’am into to the coalition.

The alliance between Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu’s supporters and the radical Right (Smotrich and Ben-Gvir supporters) are saying that Bennett’s hands have been tied because the agreements with Ra’am prevent him from taking necessary steps against terrorism, and they call him a “crook.”

Putting aside the fact that Netanyahu also met with Abbas and reportedly was himself trying bring Ra’am into his coalition (a plan that was foiled by Smotrich), we can all see that these claims are ridiculous.

There is no change in Israel’s policy when it comes to security or the status quo on the Temple Mount.

The sad thing is that sometimes we see the same messages coming from these people and from Israel’s enemies.

Both extremes think that restraint and tolerance are signs of weakness.

They can’t be more wrong.

This coalition, made up of representatives of almost the entire Israeli spectrum of society, saved Israel from an seemingly endless cycle of elections and political instability.

We saw all sides making concessions for the sake of this government. The leftist side of the coalition voted in favor of Ayelet Shaked’s controversial citizenship bill. The right-wingers supported hooking up Palestinian villages in Area C to electricity.

Yes, the footage of Hamas flags on Temple Mount is unpleasant and should be dealt with in a smart way but it’s no different to what we have seen in previous years.

Those who are spreading fear, trying to portray an image of chaos, and saying the government has lost control, are playing into the enemy’s hands and forget the unrest during “Guardian of the Walls” operation last year.

What Israel needs now, more than anything, is unity and fewer provocations.