Opinion |

Israel Needs a New Jewish-Arab Party

When Hadash joined Joint List, many voters were left 'politically homeless.' And Meretz, which has just one Arab MK and whose head is willing to join a coalition with Lieberman, isn't the answer

Iris Leal
Iris Leal
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Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel  August 11, 2018.
Israeli Arabs and their supporters take part in a rally to protest against Jewish nation-state law in Rabin square in Tel Aviv, Israel August 11, 2018.Credit: \ AMMAR AWAD/ REUTERS
Iris Leal
Iris Leal

The collective horror of senior members of the Zionist left, both past and present, at the sight of Palestinian flags in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square spurs some thoughts about the urgent need to help them in the next elections. Granted, they realize that the nation-state law, and the fact that it puts a spoke in the wheel of implementing equality, removes the obstacles from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s road to one big happy apartheid state. But they want to fight him without the ethnic community that he’s harming waving its symbols in front of their faces.

Let’s be fair. A picture of Zionist Union leaders Avi Gabbay and Tzipi Livni marching under the flag of Palestine could have provided the entirety of Netanyahu’s campaign advertising all by itself. And now, when elections seem to be in the offing, they need to think about every possible image. Moreover, Netanyahu’s messages have penetrated and reshaped the national consciousness over the past decade, and it’s clear that these two, who have internalized those messages all too well, cannot challenge them. They feel bound to them.

Anyone who hoped to see them giving Netanyahu the finger, as they ought to do, will have to wake up and accept that they are beyond help. Netanyahu has devoted years to undermining the reputation of liberal values and blurring the distinction between legitimate political opposition and subversion. Anyone who isn’t part of his group is a traitor.

Consequently, it’s asking too much to expect Gabbay and Livni to show courage and to tell the right — which is baring its teeth and barking at the Palestinian flags — to go jump in the lake. Even former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, that fighting oppositionist, bowed his head submissively to the Bibi-ist conventions and angrily spat out something about the flag problem.

>> Tzipi Livni: There's a reason the opposition didn't attend the nation-state protest | Opinion ■ Protests against nation-state law highlight sad truth about Israeli left | Analysis

In short, if Livni and Gabbay aren’t capable of altering their consciousness for a moment, I know someone who is. That is, I don’t know him personally, but I’m capable of imagining him.

When Hadash joined the Joint List, it left many people without a political home — not only Jews who believe with all their hearts in Jewish-Arab partnership, but also Arabs who object to separatism and Muslim religiosity and want to maintain their Palestinian identity alongside a civic Israeli identity and full integration into an egalitarian society.

As for those who will yell from the wings at this point, “but we have Meretz,” I will politely ask them to shut up. Meretz Chairwoman Tamar Zandberg won’t attract Arab voters, both because she has already announced her willingness to sit in a government with Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman (something Gabbay ruled out) and because Meretz has only one Arab Knesset member.

Yet here, before our very eyes, an Arab-Jewish party is being created — or for anyone disturbed by that, a Jewish-Arab one. This party would realize one of the best elements of that demonstration in Rabin Square, that marvelous spirit of a shared fate.

Such a party will also have another role. It could shatter the stability between the blocs of our current political reality and enable Gabbay, under certain circumstances, to form a governing coalition. He’ll never agree to sit in a government with the Joint List, and it’s clear that his natural partner, Meretz, will have to find itself again in order to avoid disappearing. But a new Jewish-Arab party would be a completely different story.

Nothing would more quickly cleanse the poisons of our terrible flirtation with fascist “processes” than an Arab cabinet minister. And why not? Such a party could have great bargaining power.

“Whoever wanted to enjoy the world faces an impossible task,” wrote the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska. “Stupidity is not funny. Wisdom isn`t jolly.” Such a party would be the most effective medicine for the woes that stupidity has inflicted on us.

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