In recent days, in light of what appears to be the accelerated collapse of the government set up by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid, there has been a lot of talk about the partnership between the governing coalition’s Jewish parties and the United Arab List as an “experiment.”
MK Nir Orbach (Yamina) expressed this view on Monday during the vote on extending the regulations that apply Israeli law to Israelis living in the West Bank. “You don’t want to be partners,” he shouted at Arab MKs from the coalition who voted against it. “The experiment with you has failed.”
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UAL Chairman Mansour Abbas responded to him in a speech on Wednesday, saying, “The experiment in forming the coalition succeeded. We set up a very special government.” Labor Chairwoman Merav Michaeli followed Abbas with a press statement saying, “The experiment is indeed succeeding. This diverse government is in fact working.”
But all three are wrong. The UAL’s inclusion in the governing coalition isn’t an experiment, and the current government’s fate must not be allowed to determine whether cooperation between Jews and Arabs in running the country continues. The natural and desirable state of affairs is for the one quarter of Israel’s population that isn’t Jewish to take full part in its civic and political life at every level, including in the government.
The experiment was the state’s existence for decades without the civic participation of non-Jews. That’s an experiment that can’t succeed in the long run, and it’s good that it ended. A mature, self-confident, democratic country doesn’t conduct experiments on a critical value like equality; it implements this value in practice.
A shared civic existence in this country among Jews, Arabs and all its other religious, ethnic and national groups is necessitated by reality. And even if the current government’s days are numbered, the inclusion of an Arab party in the governing coalition must not remain as a “one-time experiment.”
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This was a necessary correction of a historic injustice and a moral distortion in Israel’s democracy that began with the country's establishment. The work of making this correction must continue in the coming governments as well.
The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.