Elect as Many Arabs to the Knesset as Possible

Rogel Alpher
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Ayman Odeh poses with supporters during a campaign rally for the Joint List in the Arab town of Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, August 23, 2019.
Ayman Odeh poses with supporters during a campaign rally for the Joint List in the Arab town of Kafr Yasif in northern Israel, August 23, 2019.Credit: AHMAD GHARABLI / AFP
Rogel Alpher

I hope the March election will be the last in which Meretz (or the Democratic Union in latest incarnation) and Labor – with or without Gesher – participate. This is because the solution of the Zionist left, two nations for two peoples, can no longer be implemented.

Anyone whose only aim in voting is to remove Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would be better off voting for Kahol Lavan. Anyone who votes with a more long-term view, based on the aspiration of granting full equal rights to the Palestinians in the binational apartheid nation – which has become a fait accompli under Netanyahu’s rule (with the help of the European Union and U.S. President Donald Trump) – would be better off voting for the Joint List.

Bring as many Arabs as possible into the Knesset: This needs to be the goal of the dissidents whose vision extends beyond the Netanyahu era, and who realize that the leaders who come after him − whether they are part of the center such as Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid and Gabi Ashkenazi, or whether they are on the right, such as Gideon Sa’ar, Moshe Ya’alon, Ayelet Shaked and Bezalel Smotrich − will only perpetuate the occupation and the apartheid.

The difference will be in their style and tone. Kahol Lavan will do it using the notorious inertia of the Israeli mainstream, whose eyes are blocked from seeing, who deny reality, hides its head in the sand, is afraid to decide and always surrenders to the inexorable power of the settlers – while a new right-wing government would aggressively promote official annexation, forcefully and intentionally blow up the peace treaty with Jordan and act to overthrow the Hashemite royal house and turn Jordan into Palestine.

The bottom line will be identical: The continuation of the dispossession and theft and the refusal to allow Arab citizens of Israel to be full and legitimate partners in the government. The most effective response to this racist and anti-democratic spirit is to increase the strength of the Arabs in the Knesset to its maximum.

Meretz and Labor are part of the terrible blindness the Zionist left is suffering from. They refuse to recognize the fact that the era of the two-state solution is over. They refuse to update their worldview and continue to insist on this moldy anachronism. History has left them behind. They are stuck in the past, together with the unsolvable tension between “democratic” and “Jewish,” and with their impractical and unfeasible alchemistic formulas to solve it. History has left this oxymoronic phrase, “Jewish-democratic,” behind. The time has come to choose.

This is why these two parties, which are identified with the formulation “Jewish-democratic,” twisted around their necks like a rusty weight which is pulling them down, are unable to lead the forces in Israeli society that choose “democratic,” without Jewish. These forces could be led by a new party, Jewish-Arab, which will be built on the ruins of Meretz and Labor, and the Joint List needs to be the catalyst for its establishment. To now put as many Arabs as possible in the Knesset would be to throw a Molotov cocktail into the heart of the system that represses them.

There are more than enough politicians and opinion makers on the left who understand that this is essential, and that the Arab electoral revenge for Netanyahu’s incitement is a golden opportunity to create this party – the party of the future that will carry out the vision of Jewish-Arab cooperation in binational Israel. It is already a fact on the ground.

It will be the first party of Israelis without differences of religion, race and gender, which will aspire to and can even earn a significant share of power – or will be a large opposition that offers a real alternative to the structural racism of the Jewish state. Whoever votes in March for Meretz or Labor will vote for the past. The future requires strengthening the Arab presence in the Knesset.