Editorial |

At Least the West Bank's Secret Is Out

Israeli soldiers argue with a demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag during a protest against Israeli settlements in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Ban on Monday.
Israeli soldiers argue with a demonstrator holding a Palestinian flag during a protest against Israeli settlements in Jordan Valley in the Israeli-occupied West Ban on Monday.Credit: RANEEN SAWAFTA/ REUTERS

The rift on the right created by Benjamin Netanyahu’s poisonous leadership led to a political Big Bang and the formation of a new bloc – a bloc that’s united in its revulsion to Netanyahu but divided ideologically. The result is both a governing coalition and an opposition that are voting based on narrow political considerations, and Knesset members who are voting against their ideological consciences.

Over the last year, the public has seen rightists in the opposition opposing right-wing laws while left-wing and centrist parties and even the United Arab List supported them. Take for instance the tortuous path to approving an amendment of the Citizenship Law.

That’s how it came to be that Likud and Religious Zionism – parties that are ostensibly home to supporters of annexing the West Bank – oppose extending the emergency regulations that apply Israeli law to Israelis living in that territory, laws that were first enacted in 1967 and have since been extended every few years, most recently in 2017.

And Meretz, the left’s ostensible home, supports extending them. Thanks to Netanyahu, an anomaly has been created in which MKs Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir are willing to destroy the legal infrastructure that allows settlers to lead normal lives, while MKs Mossi Raz and Gaby Lasky of Meretz are protecting the settlement enterprise and even UAL has been under pressure to support the regulations.

This cynicism doesn’t suit any of them. “I can’t carry this responsibility,” MK Mazen Ghanayim (UAL) said before the vote. “It makes a difference whether a law passes with the right’s votes ... or whether it passes with the votes of Arab MKs, including my own.”

His position is understandable, even if the regulations themselves are the same regardless of who passes them, and even though it’s pure chance that they came up for renewal while UAL, Meretz and Labor – parties for which opposing the occupation is fundamental to their political worldview – were in the government.

The only thing that opponents of the occupation and annexation, Jews and Arabs alike, can take comfort in is the public debate that has arisen over these regulations. Something important has happened here.

The right’s commitment to toppling the current “government of change” at any price has sabotaged the automatic legal mechanism that maintains apartheid in the West Bank – a mechanism that has operated for years far from the public’s eye – and thereby essentially revealed the fact of its existence.

The public has learned the legal truth that makes the settlement enterprise possible – the existence of two separate legal systems in the same territory, one for Israelis (that is, Jews) and one for Palestinians, as well as two separate justice systems.

There’s a military justice system for subjects without citizenship who live under a military dictatorship, and there’s a second system for privileged Jews with Israeli citizenship, who live under Israeli law in a territory that’s not under Israeli sovereignty.

For the first time, Israel’s general public has an opportunity to understand what the world is talking about when it talks about apartheid.

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