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Jewish Nation-state Bill: Time to Remove the Fig Leaf

We have reached the end of our democratic rope; Knesset members should vote with their feet.

Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid
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Yossi Sarid
Yossi Sarid

The day after tomorrow, Wednesday, the Knesset will be asked to approve the right-wing Knesset members’ “nation-state law.” This is the law that raises the “Jewish state” to our chief joy and brings down the “democratic state” to our basest shame. This is the law that negates every national right and every community symbol of Israel’s Arab citizens, that annuls the status of Arabic as the state’s second official language, and above all, erases “equality.”

This is the law that changes us while we sleep. When we wake up, we won’t recognize ourselves. As if it is not enough that our credit rating has been brought down, now they will bring down our democracy as well. Will they still let us into the club of the developed nations? Finance Minister Yair Lapid can chalk up both of these achievements to his credit. What did he accomplish by forcing the ultra-Orthodox parties out of the coalition and the government, if even without them the state is wearing a knitted kippa that is blacker than black?

A thousand times this column has addressed the damage done by the fig leaf. The nakedness is ever more revealed, while the leaf is shrinking and can no longer cover it. The justice minister spoke well at Sunday’s cabinet meeting when she said: “You are destroying the country,” but did not say whether she will do what she says when she votes.

When Tzipi summaries her period of fig-leafery, what will she say to her credit? Will she inscribe the lost authority of the Supreme Court? The judges ruled, so what? Who is afraid? Twice they struck down arrangements for the residence of refugees in Israel, and the voice of the court is like a voice crying in the wilderness. Now the judges are being served with that same arrangement, with worthless changes, and how will they dare put the legislature in its place for the third time?

And who takes the attorney general seriously? His opinion is of less interest to the ministers than the scolding by the international community. That is what is done to an attorney general who by the nature of his selection was intended to legitimize the personal actions of the prime minister and his wife, not to fumigate the prime minister’s ideological bugs.

Livni and Lapid during a press conference, November 21, 2014.Credit: Ofer Vaknin

On Wednesday we will see whether Livni and Lapid will grab onto the horns of their deerskin ministerial chairs or whether they will save their own skins before Netanyahu chucks them out. If you can’t beat him for now, at least don’t join him, lest you lose yourselves.

Now it is clear that Netanyahu has resolved, ahead of the election, to change the face of democracy. No longer concern for the rights of minorities and protection of their status, but rather compelling it to serve the whims of the majority and the arbitrariness of his rule. And “the winds of the times” are blowing clearly: kosher Jews in, Arabs raus.

And the Arab MKs continue to sit in the Knesset as if in the heyday of communist MK Tawfik Toubi, and in fact their presence there legitimizes Israeli parliamentarism. True, from time to time they want to throw them out because of a kaffiyeh, but they also want them to stay in. How will we prove the width and breadth of Israeli democracy without them? With us, the Arabs dance too, and they have their own flute.

Precisely for this reason, these MKs must not take part in the vote this week. They will be much more conspicuous in their absence. In any case failure is a given, unless Hatnuah and Yesh Atid pledge ahead of time to overcome their governmental natures and vote against it. Only then is there a chance of overcoming the evil decree.

It would not be fair or right to send them away alone, with all due respect to them and to us. The time has come that Jewish lawmakers as well, from Labor and Meretz, shut down the party and tear off the mask: Don’t give the right wing the chance to present things as if everything was normal, when everything is insane. The discussion is over, the bill has passed, and we go back about our business.

Israeli Arab MKs Ahmed Tibi (United Arab List-Ta’al ), Hanna Swaid (Hadash) and Jamal Zahalka (Balad), July 20, 2011.Credit: Emil Salman

No, we don’t go back. I myself have trouble believing it, but this is my advice after having reached the end of our democratic rope. I will not recommend going back to the plenum until the Knesset changes its ways for the better, until the majority recognizes the limits of its power, and perhaps until the next election – whatever comes first. There is no point in continuing the parliamentary game as if all the rules had not been broken long ago.

Whoever is for democracy – follow us, out. Thus we will know who is for us and who for Netanyahu, who will cooperate with him under the fig leaf, and who will commit to ousting him.

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