No one could accuse me of being a fan/supporter/admirer of this government. I’m not. Nor are most of the people who surround me. This hybrid of Naftali Bennett, Nitzan Horowitz and Mansour Abbas never seemed natural to us. This is not a government of change or healing or sanity; it’s a particularly pitiful consolation prize for 20 years of Benjamin Netanyahu. It’s a rebound relationship after a toxic marriage. If it weren’t for the effect of “Netanyahu poisoning,” the current government wouldn’t be any voter’s first choice.
And perhaps that (and only that) is the beauty of this government. On one hand, it’s no less right-wing and Zionist than its predecessors. Just the opposite: It’s continuing the policy of settlement expansion and accelerating the transfer of Palestinians from the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, the Negev and East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood. On the other hand we must admit, even if it’s hard (and it is hard), that both Israeli society and Arab society do in fact sense a difference between this government and its predecessors.
The Arab community had grown accustomed to hostile, negative treatment by the previous governments that included insults and unbridled incitement, complete with accusations of treason and subversion; governments whose public security ministers were the first to harm the community for whose security they are responsible. So yes, suddenly this community suddenly feels a little differently. There are fewer insults and less incitement, the justice system is less right-wing and the public security minister is trying to solve problems rather than create them.
I am writing all this because of Joint List chair Ayman Odeh. Because when Judgment Day comes – that is, a no-confidence vote – the Joint List will shoot itself in the foot if it votes with the rest of the opposition to topple the government. This would be a serious mistake. The Arab community won’t forgive it if Netanyahu and friends – the Itamar Ben-Gvirs and the Bezalel Smotriches – return to the regime of incitement and a far-right government thanks to the votes and the trust that we gave to the Joint List alliance of predominantly Arab parties.
On Wednesday, Joint List MK Aida Touma-Sliman tweeted oh-so-cleverly that she won’t join for even a moment a government that deepens the occupation, oppresses and persecutes the very people the party represents and exacerbates the discrimination and racism they suffer. You don’t say. And is the alternative government, the one with Ben-Gvir and Smotrich, planning to end the occupation, the persecution and the oppression? After all, Touma-Sliman knows that even in another 50 years, there won’t be a true left-wing government here capable of implementing what she dreams about. So why all the sanctimony?
We are therefore at a crucial moment, one in which members of the Joint List – especially Odeh and Ahmad Tibi, who are so angry at United Arab List chair Mansour Abbas for pulling focus from them – must stop their ego games and recognize what’s at stake. They must not be the people who pave the way for a fascist government.
The constellation that enabled a kind of half-and-half government like this one is unlikely to return anytime soon. The next government will be a Ben-Gvir government in both word and deed. It will be built on a platform of hatred for and persecution of Arabs, leftists, institutional gatekeepers, the legal system, the media, cultural figures and, in practice, all the people who have dared to raise their heads in recent months. It would be a government of revenge and settling accounts.
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I don’t believe in the idea that things won’t be good here until they get very bad. Because for us, the Arabs, things have already been very bad. And what I can say? I prefer the lesser evil.