Editorial

The Ideological Blindness of Two Right-wing Israeli Ministers

Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin are leading Israel to one of two bad prospects: its end as a state that is Jewish and democratic, or its official transformation into an apartheid state

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s campaign to destroy the Supreme Court has moved up a level.
Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s campaign to destroy the Supreme Court has moved up a level. Marc Israel Salem

Cabinet ministers Ayelet Shaked and Yariv Levin are working to impose Israeli law on the West Bank, Yedioth Ahronoth reported on Friday. They propose that every government-sponsored bill specify whether it will also apply to the territories. In practice, every new law would automatically apply to the territories, except in rare cases where the government does not want to give Palestinians the rights enjoyed by Jews. The sponsors’ intent is clear: to take one more step toward erasing the Green Line and annexing the West Bank – its territory, not its inhabitants, in order to deprive them of any say in determining their own fate.

That is how creeping annexation works: First come the half-tracks, creeping in on their treads, then the settlers creep in, with or without the government’s encouragement. The government follows, extending its official patronage to all. The law creeps in last, to lend the appearance of propriety to a situation that discriminates against the local population, is not recognized by any foreign state and whose future depends on negotiation.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem shortly after the Six-Day War, but even though in theory its residents can become naturalized citizens of Israel, in practice it is very difficult due to the obstacles Israel puts up. This is in keeping with its policy of preserving a large Jewish majority. When it annexed the Golan Heights 14 years later, de facto if not de jure – technically, it only extended its “administration and law” to the territory that was conquered from Syria, in a disingenuous step – Israel forced the area’s relatively small population to accept Israeli citizenship. The state does not dare to openly violate international law by doing the same thing in the West Bank.

Three years ago, before they joined the Netanyahu government, Shaked and Levin (representing Habayit Hayehudi and Likud’s right flank, respectively), together with other Knesset members, proposed a creeping annexation under the guise of imposing judicial equality on either side of the Green Line – but only for Jews. That constitutes exploitation of the 50-year-old fiction that the West Bank is a military area and as such is under the rule of the commanding army officer, whose actions are dictated by military necessity. Since the Israeli military is subordinate to the cabinet, which is bound by the laws passed by the Knesset, the legislative process can be used to smuggle annexation and discrimination past the military.

Shaked and Levin are introducing their bill just weeks before U.S. President Donald Trump, who hopes to renew the peace process, is scheduled to visit Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The justice minister and tourism minister seek to preclude any chance of a possible agreement with the Palestinians, while pandering to settlers and their supporters in the headquarters and constituencies of the right-wing parties. In their ideological blindness, Shaked and Levin are leading Israel to one of two bad prospects: its end as a state that is Jewish and democratic, or its official transformation into an apartheid state.

File photo: Yariv Levin speaks at the Knesset.
Emil Salman

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.