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Why Stop at West Bank Annexation?

yossi klein
Yossi Klein
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Religious fascists are ascendant on the right.
Religious fascists are ascendant on the right.Credit: Eran Wolkowski
yossi klein
Yossi Klein

Talk of annexation is in the air – a cautious discussion with settlers and religious Zionists saying “annexation” and falling silent. They’re sussing it out, sending up little trial balloons. They say “annexation” and look around, like somebody who hit a parked car and plans to hightail out of there.

We hear “annexation” more and more without getting worked up. That’s how we are. It’s not easy to provoke us. Want to cut pensions? Go ahead. Want another military operation in Gaza? Go ahead if you’re keen. But annexation of West Bank land? What for – so that they’ll call us an expansionist state and not an apartheid state?

After all, we are an apartheid state, and lovers of that genre sense that this is the right time to enshrine that in law. Now is the right time for everything. The combination of an incited people, a suddenly terrified prime minister and an apathetic world is so rare that it would be a mistake not to take advantage of it. We’ll take advantage of it, and how, but then the question will be asked: If annexation, why not go all the way? Why not write a constitution?

“How is it possible that after eight years of statehood we still don’t have a legally binding document that lays out the jurisdictions of the authorities?” Menachem Begin asked in 1956. So why wouldn’t we take this opportunity to establish over us a religious-Zionist constitution?

It would be an advanced constitution, without civil rights and supervision by the High Court of Justice, all in the name of the nation and based on 61 votes, creating the smallest of majorities in the Knesset and the hell with the High Court. But wait a second, why stop there? What about the Temple? What about an immunity law? (It’s not tailor-made, it’s just for anyone whose last name begins with N.)

This is an opportunity that religious Zionism must take. Regimes that religious Zionism feels comfortable with must be enshrined in a constitution. Regimes like these don’t arrest just anybody on the street. They always have a clause that justifies it.

A constitution will make an anti-High Court override clause obsolete and bury the Declaration of Independence. It will include not only annexation but the population transfer that will accompany it, and the apartheid that will sustain it. It will be a constitution composed by Bezalel Smotrich, amended by right-wing Rabbi Eli Sadan and ratified by little Yair.

The constitution will be built on the characteristics of religious Zionism. It will obscure the failure of religious Zionism – 52 years, investments of billions and fewer than 500,000 Jews moved from crowded Israel into the expansive home of our patriarchs.

The constitution will soothe them and their obsession with yelling “hold me back.” “Hold me back before I transfer Arabs, hold me back before I fire judges.” And we won’t forget “hold me back, I’m busy annexing land.”

In coalition talks after the upcoming election, or after the next one, religious Zionism will lodge an uncompromising demand to extend sovereignty over the territories in a way that defines us as an apartheid state. This will indeed be an apartheid state, but it will present itself as “the only democracy in the Middle East” (whoever doesn’t agree is an anti-Semite). It will be an incomparable democracy, a state without borders and a country of subjects without rights.

But we will ignore and repress. They’ll say “transfer” and we’ll answer “high-tech.” They’ll accuse us of apartheid and we’ll answer “Gal Gadot.” They’ll rail against us for arresting children in the West Bank and we’ll answer: “But what a Eurovision we put on!”

This could have been nice, but the time for moderate religious Zionism and the enlightened countenance of Naftali Bennett has passed. The religious Zionists are the generation of the wandering in the desert. They’ll see a state of Jewish law before them and won’t come. Their voters always anticipate their leaders on the way into the abyss.

Bennett spoke about Gaza, but religious Zionists’ minds were already on annexation. Ayelet Shaked spoke about the High Court of Justice, but her voters weren’t satisfied with anything less than a state of Jewish law.

Bennett and Shaked paid for the fact that they were lagging. The religious fascists replaced them. Call them fascists and they won’t be insulted. They’re proud religious fascists. They’ll proudly run an apartheid state that observes the mitzvot, but they won’t give up on the notion that the majority rules and that’s that.

They know that as long as this kind of democracy exists, the violent and inevitable conflict of the enlightened and secular bourgeois minority against the poor and ignorant nationalist majority will be held at bay. They know who will prevail.

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