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Why Does Israel's Interior Minister Insist on Lying?

Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar
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Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, on Monday.
Ayelet Shaked in the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Akiva Eldar
Akiva Eldar

The late Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir is someone Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked has admired ever since she was a child. In an op-ed published in Makor Rishon newspaper on November 29, 2018 (The anniversary of UN resolution 181), she extolled Shamir’s dictum that "it’s okay to lie for the sake of the Land of Israel." A Jewish land of Israel, of course.

But in the battle Shaked has been waging over the citizenship law, ostensibly for the sake of preserving Israel’s Jewish majority, the student has surpassed her teacher. The same Shaked who, by not allowing citizenship to fewer than 15,000 Palestinians is willing to endanger the government’s stability, argued less than three years ago that Israel should immediately grant citizenship to no fewer than 100,000 Palestinians (though according to statistics from Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, the real figure is actually double).

In that same Makor Rishon article, Shaked presented a "plan for calm" that she had drafted together with her partner in what was then the Habayit Hayehudi party, Naftali Bennett. Under this plan, Israel would annex Area C of the West Bank (the area over which the Oslo Accords gave it both security and civilian control) together with all its residents, both Jewish and Palestinian, and apply Israeli sovereignty to the area.

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"There will no longer be any difference between the Jewish residents of Hebron and residents of Tel Aviv," she wrote. "What goes for Ra’anana will be exactly what goes for Elon Moreh, even from a legal perspective."

Lest there be any doubt, she added that "the Palestinians living there will receive full Israeli citizenship and become Israeli citizens, with everything that may entail" – though of course, only "after investigating how dangerous they are." It’s not clear how you investigate how dangerous 100,000 to 200,000 individuals are.

Then came the punchline: "Israel, with its nine million citizens, can absorb this number of Arabs without altering its unique character as a Jewish and democratic state." That sounds nice, except it never occurred to Shaked that a democracy doesn’t force citizenship on people without asking them whether they want it.

But wait a minute. If 100,000 Arabs won’t alter Israel’s character as a Jewish state, how is it possible that 15,000 non-Jews will turn it into a binational state?

Giving equal rights to 100,000 to 200,000 annexed people, irrespective of religion, race or gender, deserves an award from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel. In contrast, the repeatedly extended temporary law that bars reunification of a few thousand families gives Israeli democracy a bad reputation.

The "plan for calm" is dead, but Shaked hasn’t abandoned the idea of a complete annexation of Area C. In a speech she gave in March at a conference titled "The Quiet War," organized by Makor Rishon and the pro-settler Israeli Regavim NGO, she criticized then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for having missed the opportunity to annex.

Israel was facing the most sympathetic American administration "it ever had or will have," she said. "But unfortunately, Netanyahu not only missed the opportunity for sovereignty," but also an opportunity to legalize illegal settlement outposts.

She then promised that "If Bennett becomes prime minister, he’ll do this even during a Biden administration." Let’s hope Bennett spares himself that mistake.

Comparing Shaked’s insistence on the annexation plan with her battle against family reunifications reveals her dishonest use of national security. During the Knesset debate on extending the temporary law, she said it was originally enacted "due to the Jewish blood spilled by cursed murderers who entered Israel via marriage." In her words, "the hundreds of terrorists who obtained residency through marriage are decisive proof of the law’s security importance."

But judging by statistics the security services gave the Knesset in 2020, the minister was fraudulently dancing on Jewish blood. Over the past two decades, just 45 of the Palestinians who obtained residency in Israel through family reunifications were involved in terrorism. And over the past two years, the number dropped to zero. In addition, 109 Israelis from the second generation of families formed through family reunification were involved in terror between 2001 and 2020.

If, as Shaked claimed, allowing a few thousand Palestinians to move to Israel produced "hundreds of terrorists," how much Jewish blood would be spilled following the annexation of tens of thousands of their brethren?

The interior minister has the power to deny entry to Israel to anyone who endangers public safety. If so, why is Shaked willing to go rogue over this temporary law, to the point of endangering the integrity of the fragile governing coalition? Is relying on this stain on Israel’s law books more comfortable for her than having to sign an entry permit for a "terrorist" with her own two hands?

Or perhaps she doesn’t care if the coalition falls apart. It’s no secret that sitting in a government with Arabs and leftists makes her nauseous.

But either way, when Shamir said he was willing to lie for the sake of the Land of Israel, he meant every word of it. Shaked, in contrast, is willing to lie for the sake of Shaked.

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