Young MKs Should Be Raising the Banner of Rebellion

This is a time of genuine emergency: although it’s true that this is not the first time that the bells are tolling.

zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell
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A family voting.
A family voting. Credit: Hadar Cohen
zeev sternhell
Zeev Sternhell

Among the many problems confronting Israel, two are existential, with the future of the country dependent on them: the question of human rights and the Palestinian problem. All the other problems, such as the cost of living and the social disparities, with all their importance, we can try to solve in the future. The same is true of the conscription of yeshiva students or the core curriculum in the ultra-Orthodox community.

The two main problems reflect two aspects of the same situation: Anyone who doesn’t want to live in a country where there is separation based on race and nationality, a country that denies the very existence of universal rights, should understand that time is of the essence. In any case there are many people who believe that the train has already left the station and the doors have closed; quite a few people see their future and that of their children and grandchildren in an organization established in the United States by Jewish billionaires, of Israeli-born Americans (the Israeli-American Council).

But all those who still want a Jewish state, not only as an overnight refuge or a transit station but as an entity capable of guaranteeing its citizens a worthwhile life, are instructed to set aside any other consideration and enlist for the rescue mission.

We are referring first and foremost to the leaders of the centrist parties, Labor, Yesh Atid and Hatnuah. They all share more or less the same opinions, none of them has a unique message, they all know that the present government is leading Israeli society toward an abyss, but none of them has the courage and ability to draw conclusions.

If such a centrist bloc were to be established – eventually relying on the votes of the Haredim, the left and Meretz, and naturally receiving the support of the Arab parties – it would have a chance to oust the right from government. In order to carry out the rescue operation it’s worth our while to accede all the demands of the Haredim: budgets for education even without the core curriculum; waiving conscription of yeshiva students, whom nobody needs in the army in any case; nor is Reform conversion is a sine qua non in terms of our future.

As far as Israeli Arabs are concerned, their parties are in effect demanding nothing more than what they are entitled to by dint of the essence of democracy: equality. They aren’t demanding a thing beyond equality in education, equality in economic development and equality of opportunity. They simply don’t want to be seen as a potential enemy and are unwilling to be candidates for any type of transfer.

On such a foundation of adherence to the principle of human rights – for all – and of partitioning the country and drawing a border between two states, it is possible to establish a force that will receive a majority in the next election. The time has come for the leadership of the center to look in the mirror and ask itself: What have we contributed thus far and what would happen if we didn’t exist? What use will it be if we continue to trudge along on the same path?

The job of the newer and younger MKs, those who were borne on the various waves of social protest, is to raise an outcry: Raise the banner of rebellion, my friends. This is a time of genuine emergency: although it’s true that this is not the first time that the bells are tolling. It’s true that this isn’t the first time that large parts of Israeli society feel that this is the end of the road.

But today, after another destructive operation in the Gaza Strip that brought no change, when the majority is planning to eliminate the Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty, which entrenches human rights in Israel and is the basis of democracy, we are permitted to say to our elected officials: That’s enough, and not one more step in the same direction.

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