September 22, 2019


The day the Arabs saved Zionism: The Joint List's surge is a leap toward fulfilling Herzl's vision of a Jewish state as tolerant, inclusive and democratic (David Breakstone, SEP 22, 2019, times of Israel)

The Joint List's platform is anathema to the majority of Jewish Israelis, calling as it does for the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, the freeing of all "political prisoners" (presumably including terrorists convicted of cold-blooded murder), and a "just solution" to the predicament of Palestinian refugees that would allow them to return to territories squarely within even the essentially uncontested borders of the State of Israel, posing a demographic threat to Israel's Jewish majority.

But this platform, and the unexpectedly high number of 13 members of Knesset who were just elected to uphold it, also constitutes a supreme challenge to Israel's self-definition as a democracy.  Being one doesn't mean accepting the validity only of voices similar to your own; it means acknowledging the legitimacy of those who oppose you, even when that opposition is vehement. When Arabs streaming to the polls is perceived as exclusively a danger rather than as an opportunity, questions need to be asked about our commitment to the fundamental values on which this country was established, explicitly enunciated in Israel's declaration of independence.

Those who hold by these values - among them "the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants" while ensuring them "complete equality of social and political rights irrespective of religion, race or sex" - would best be served by courting the Arab parties to cooperate in buttressing them. They have every reason to be responsive. It is essential for the minorities in this country - even more so than for the majority - that the cornerstones of democracy not be eroded. The sanctity of the justice system, the freedom of press, the rule of law and order, the restraint of theocratic tendencies and the rejection of religious coercion are all critical to Israel's existence as a Jewish and democratic state - and the fulfillment of the Zionist ideal.

In pursuit of that, the leaders of all parties should take this to heart and signal to the Joint List that they are ready for an alliance of one sort or another. The greater the stake and sense of empowerment that all citizens of this country have in any government that might emerge, the greater the chance for positive change in the realm of interfaith and inter-ethnic relations, as well as in our political culture. Should the Arabs agree, then they will indeed have played a central role in saving Israel from itself - and Zionism in the process.

Posted by at September 22, 2019 11:46 AM