No one disputes Israel is a Jewish state - stop making it worse - opinion

The policies that the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit want to pursue will put us back to where we were 40 years ago.

 A SOLDIER and haredi man pray at the Western Wall. No non-Jew in Israel thinks of Israel as a non-Jewish country, says the writer.  (photo credit: David Cohen/Flash90)
A SOLDIER and haredi man pray at the Western Wall. No non-Jew in Israel thinks of Israel as a non-Jewish country, says the writer.
(photo credit: David Cohen/Flash90)

On September 15, 2020, the Abraham Accords were signed between Israel, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain at the White House. The following October, Sudan announced its intention to join the accords. On December 10 of the same year, Morocco formally joined the accords. As of this August, El Al received permission to fly to Asian countries via Saudi Arabia airspace. In the first four and a half months of the Abraham Accords, 130,000 Israelis visited the UAE. More recently, as President Isaac Herzog visited Bahrain, an Arab honor guard played “Hatikvah.”

Since September 2020, Israeli embassies have been established in the UAE and Bahrain, and they have embassies in Israel. On November 23, 2022, the Bahrain Embassy condemned the terrorist attacks that took place in Jerusalem, expressing sympathy for the families of the victims. 

And so the progress in Israeli-Arab relations continues.

Within Israel, there has also been a sea change in Jewish-Arab relations. The four Arab-ethnic parties that made up the Joint List have traditionally been nationalist parties, refusing to recognize Israel’s right to exist (all the while collecting salaries and pensions as members of the Knesset). While the parties are considered to be left-wing in the Jewish political perspective, they are actually right-wing in the Arab political perspective, advocating the national aspirations of one community (Palestinians) while denying the national aspirations of another community (Jews).

In the 2021 Knesset elections, one of the parties of the Joint List, Ra’am, split off to run on its own, with its leader Mansour Abbas announcing that he recognizes Israel as a Jewish majority state. He broke off from the Joint List specifically to represent Israeli Arabs in the Knesset, intending to join a governing coalition in order to secure budgets for the Israeli Arab community.

The party received four seats in the Knesset, passing the electoral threshold, signaling a positive reception by the Israeli Arab community. Following election results that generated a tie between the two major camps in the Knesset, the Ra’am backed Naftali Bennett for prime minister and received budgets for his constituency.

DEPUTY KNESSET SPEAKER Mansour Abbas: I accept the democratic choices of Jewish-Israeli society, just like I ask Jewish-Israeli society to accept the choices of Arab-Israeli society. (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)DEPUTY KNESSET SPEAKER Mansour Abbas: I accept the democratic choices of Jewish-Israeli society, just like I ask Jewish-Israeli society to accept the choices of Arab-Israeli society. (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

In the 2022 elections, the Balad party split off from the Joint List. The most nationalist of the four parties, Balad became concerned that the remaining two parties of the list, Ta’al and Hadash, would follow Ra’am’s example. To make sure that it would not be dragged into a coalition agreement against its will, and implicitly recognize Israel’s legitimacy, Balad broke off from the Joint List and ran independently. While Ra’am won five seats in the Knesset, Balad didn’t pass the electoral barrier. The Arab-Israeli voter had spoken, and joining Israeli society has become the new norm in Arab-Israeli society.

THE ELECTIONS aside, about 30% of Israeli Bedouin males volunteer either for the army or the police, and about a third of Arab Christian males do so as well. And Druze males of course are drafted (at their request). More interestingly, the Druze Brigade was disbanded a while back, as most Druze draftees opted to serve in regular (Jewish majority) units rather than in ethic units. Of Israel’s 1.9 million Arabs, more than 800,000 clearly identify as Israelis who happened to not be Jewish.

At the same time, as the Arab world in and outside of Israel has come to accept her existence and sovereignty, Israel’s Jews began to lose their confidence in Zionism’s success. The joint list of the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit ran on the slogan, “Who’s the boss here?” and called for affirming Jewish sovereignty by proving to Arabs who’s the boss.

Both party leaders have a history of calling for either expelling Israeli Arabs from Israel or otherwise reducing their civil rights, as well as annexing the West Bank without granting citizenship to Palestinian residents in the area. 

Jewish sovereignty in Israel is a fact, just as it is a fact that the US is a Christian-oriented country. Christian symbols and slogans dominate US symbols and slogans; the three major holidays in the US are Christmas, New Year’s (Jesus’s brit) and Easter. Christmas and Easter vacations are the two major school breaks other than summer vacation.

Betsy Ross chose the five-pointed star over the six-pointed star for the US flag. No non-Christian in the US thinks of the US as a non-Christian country, nor do they have to be told it’s a Christian country.

We Jews are roughly 80% of Israel’s population, and Jewish culture determines the norms in this country. The country bears our name and the flag bears our symbol; the economy revolves around the Jewish holidays (with Muslim and Christian holidays taking a back seat); official holidays of the country are Jewish; and so on. 

As for proving our sovereignty to the non-Jews in the area: after over 70 years of trying to push us out of the area and failing, Arab states are now recognizing us and Israeli Arabs are accepting Israel. No non-Jew in Israel thinks of Israel as a non-Jewish country. 

So what’s the beef? 

Just as the world begins to accept the Zionist endeavor, we begin to lose our confidence in ourselves. The policies that the Religious Zionist Party and Otzma Yehudit want to pursue will put us back to where we were 40 years ago. Trust me, it wasn’t that good for us back then; the present is far better. We are on a winning streak. 

Let’s not snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. 

The writer is the deputy chair of the Division of Business Administration at Touro College Israel.