Opinion |

The Arab Party Experiment Succeeded

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on Monday.
United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas in the Knesset, on Monday.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

The experiment of including an Arab party in the governing coalition succeeded, and did so beyond expectations. Even the complaints about its failure by leaders of the coalition parties and journalists from the Zionist left attest to its success.

The experiment succeeded because it revealed several naked truths, whose disclosure was the only thing that made conducting it worthwhile. The experiment will not prevent Arab parties from joining governments in the future, and in fact it actually improved their chances of doing so. From now on, Jewish politicians will know that what they thought would succeed can never succeed and that what can succeed is in their hands.

What cannot succeed? It’s impossible to buy Arab parties with government funding alone. Those days are gone. In a warped partnership like that, it’s not the Arabs who failed, but rather the Jews who believed in it. We’ll hand out money and turn them into Zionists.

This is the experiment that failed, and its failure is a success. It won’t be tried again. The Arab parties will be able to join governments only when the Jewish parties are ready for it. All of them are very far from being so today, but the current failure may teach them a lesson and bring them closer to it.

The next time the Jewish parties need Arab votes, they’ll know that money alone won’t work. They’ll have to leave behind certain principles of Zionism – starting, of course, with Jewish supremacy in Israel. As long as that remains there can be no partnership, even if the government builds a six-lane highway between Sakhnin and Jenin and opens a branch of Tel Aviv’s Ichilov Hospital in Taibeh. Not everything is about money. Just ask United Arab List chair Mansour Abbas.

Attacking the Arab parties and bullying them with threats, as Justice Minister Gideon Sa’ar did Tuesday, merely underscores how long the road to partnership still is. Not for a moment was there a partnership or the beginnings of equality in this “government of change.” Abbas was expected to pass the tests of Zionism and bow his head submissively in exchange for a few colorful glass beads that were thrown to him. There wasn’t a single foreign-policy decision that took his opinion into consideration. This was doomed to fail. The right, which constitutes the majority of this government, is still very far from being ready for partnership.

The Zionist left is not any more prepared, not even a little bit. One of the truths that this experiment revealed was that all the Zionist parties are more alike than they seemed. Left and right are like conjoined twins, attached at the hip to Zionism. They cannot be separated even with an ax; the differences between them can’t be discerned even with an electron microscope.

See, for instance, the vote on the bill to extend the regulations that apply Israeli law to Israelis living in the West Bank. Do we need to say anything more? From Meretz to Yesh Atid, from the Labor Party to Yamina and to Sa’ar’s New Hope, they voted as one in favor of apartheid.

The vote on this bill was like developing film and printing in a darkroom. Even when it’s still in the chemical bath, the image emerges – an amputated, crippled, lobotomized political map. There is no Jewish left in Israel. Only an extreme right and a moderate right.

There is nothing that the center-left cares about less than the occupation. Would Meretz ever have voted for apartheid laws against LGBTQ people in the West Bank? Two justice systems in the same territory, one for straight people and another for gay people? Is there any circumstance in which this would happen? A single political constellation that could bring it about?

Or would the Labor Party, which is headed by Merav Michaeli, ever raise its hand for apartheid laws against women in the West Bank? Two separate legal systems, one for men and another for women? Never. Absolutely not.

It follows from this that it’s all a matter of priorities. The Israeli left, for instance, doesn’t care about the rights of the Palestinian people. But it cares deeply about animal rights. The experiment was worth it, if only to disclose this fact.

It was also worth running only to expose the hidden apartheid laws, which few people knew about, and to refute the argument made in Zionist propaganda that Israel is not an apartheid state like its predecessor, South Africa, simply because it has no apartheid laws. This is the naked truth: We too have explicit, declared, perfectly worded apartheid laws to which, worst of all, everyone agrees. Absolutely everyone.

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