Imagine an enlightened Jewish-Arab government

Israeli policy under secular, not-so-Zionist leaders from Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor-Meretz and the Joint Arab List

Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman shake hands after meeting. (photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Benny Gantz and Avigdor Liberman shake hands after meeting.
(photo credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)
Imagine that Benny Gantz forms a defiantly secular and quasi-Zionist government comprising Blue and White, Yisrael Beytenu, Labor-Meretz and the Joint Arab List (JAL), and that it sets out to “fully democratize” Israel. Here is a sketch of what might happen.
Justice Minister Avigdor Liberman introduces a new Basic Law: Freedom of and from Religion. Liberman will proudly proclaim, “This important amendment will bring Israel into line with the enlightened democracies of the Western world.”
He then introduces legislation instituting civil marriage, divorce and burial in Israel, canceling the exclusive mandate of the Chief Rabbinate in these areas, and opening up conversion to Judaism to multiple “conversion providers.” (Liberman says nothing about the Sharia court system).
Interior Minister Ayman Odeh expands the “family reunification” rules to allow virtually any Palestinian refugee in Syria and Lebanon to immigrate to Israel – if the Palestinians consider their lives to be in danger and they have relatives in Israel, the West Bank or Gaza.
“It makes no sense to deny these people refuge and family reunification,” Odeh says, “when Israel is taking in African refugees and continues to absorb tens of thousands of Russian non-Jews under the racist Law of Return.”
At Liberman’s request, Odeh also issues directives allowing public transportation to operate on Shabbat and ending Shabbat shopping restrictions.
In accordance with coalition agreement signed with the JAL, Liberman schedules a vote in the Knesset to reconsider the Basic Law: Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish People.
Housing Minister Avi Nissenkorn repeals the Kamenitz Law, which was passed in 2017 in order to stem the construction of thousands of illegal structures in the Arab sector. The Regavim NGO petitions the High Court over this, noting that the law effectively cut illegal building in the Galilee by 50%. But Nissenkorn tells the court that cancellation of the law was part of the coalition agreement with the JAL, and it is “reasonable and equitable.”
Education Minister Amir Peretz triumphantly informs the nation that he is terminating the “medieval” state-sponsored religious school system. “We will support only one democratically enlightened educational track in the Jewish sector,” he chortles. Peretz says nothing about the separate state-sponsored Arab school system.
Religious Affairs Minister Yael German brags in every speech that she is “Israel’s last religious affairs minister.” She ends government stipends to yeshiva students and all subsidies for the construction and maintenance of shuls, mikvaot and eruvin (synagogues, ritual baths and Shabbat perimeters). “The Ultra-Orthodox clerics are threatening the fabric of our enlightened Western democracy,” she warns, and talks about dismantling the mehitzah (prayer divider between men and women) at the Western Wall.
DEPUTY DEFENSE Minister Ofer Shelah presents a law for blanket drafting of ultra-Orthodox yeshiva students, with the support of the JAL. Haredi parties in Knesset file a petition to the High Court of Justice against such hypocrisy and discrimination – since Israeli Arabs don’t serve in the army and therefore passing haredi draft legislation based on JAL votes is preposterous. But the court denies the appeal.
Shelah then cancels a paratrooper swearing-in ceremony at the Western Wall. He says it violates the required separation between synagogue and state, and that it unnecessarily pokes a finger in the eye of Israeli Arabs and Palestinians.
Internal Security Minister Ahmed Tibi, now in charge of the Israel Police, cancels “all visits of extremist settlers to Al-Aqsa Mosque.” He clarifies that by “extremist settlers” he means all Jews, and by “Al-Aqsa Mosque” he means the entire Al-Haram Al-Sharif, or what the Jews erroneously call the Temple Mount. “This is exclusively a Muslim place of worship,” Tibi asserts, “and soon it will also be the focal point of the Palestinian state.”
JAL MKs Heba Yazbak and Ofer Cassif, who in the past openly expressed understanding for Palestinian terrorism against Israeli Jews and supported the dissolution of Israel, are given seats on the all-important Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, where they have the right to privileged security briefings.
Consequently, the chief of IDF military intelligence refuses to appear before the committee. He noted that in past, Balad Party chairman Azmi Bishara (one of the JAL constituent parties) spied for Hezbollah and fled Israel to avoid prosecution; that former JAL MK Basel Ghattas was caught smuggling cellphones to Palestinian terrorists in Israeli jails; and that former JAL MK Hanin Zoabi joined the Turkish terrorists on the MV Mavi Marmara. But the High Court forces the intel chief to brief the committee anyway.
Defense Minister Gabi Ashkenazi hesitates in responding to a volley of 250 Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets on southern Israel because JAL MKs threaten to bolt the coalition government if Gaza civilians are killed in an Israeli strike, or if vital Gaza infrastructures are damaged.
Arab coalition MKs also demand that all restrictions on the flow of goods into Gaza be terminated. Transportation Minister Yair Golan calls for formal and open talks between Israel and Hamas, and he begins planning for an international port in Gaza to be offered to Hamas.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid travels to Washington to explain why Israel prefers not to proceed with the Trump plan, and why the new Israeli government is prepared to sweeten the deal for Palestinians, including a Palestinian state capital in most of eastern Jerusalem.
“Unilateral annexations are no longer on the agenda,” he says, “because they would lead to violence and upset our Israeli Arab coalition partners.”
Culture Minister Nitzan Horowitz signs into law an amendment to “Hatikvah” removing the reference to a “Jewish soul” and to “Zion.”
“This will bring our national anthem into line with the non-theocratic, enlightened democracies of the Western world, and make it more palatable for our Israeli Arab coalition partners and Arab citizen-brothers,” he says.
Just imagine: an “enlightened” Jewish-Arab democratic government of Israel.
The author is vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, jiss.org.il. His personal site is davidmweinberg.com.