Editorial

A Racist Unity Government

Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz and Yisrael Beiteinu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman speak about coalition negotiations in Ramat Gan, November 14, 2019.
Tomer Appelbaum

Every time Israel faces a military “escalation,” the thin wrapping that barely covers its institutionalized racism is revealed. The primary inciter, as usual, has been Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who, in a series of tweets and Facebook posts, sent the message in recent days that a minority government supported by the Arab parties would be “a slap in the face of IDF soldiers and a danger to the State of Israel.” In his address to the Knesset this week, he similarly exploited the opportunity to depict Arab Knesset members as supporters of the enemy.

Next in line after Netanyahu, and sometimes even surpassing him, is the man who has become the kingmaker du jour, Avigdor Lieberman. With the entire political system as his feet, the Yisrael Beiteinu party chairman has gone around in recent days like someone whose every racist thought deserves special attention. In an interview with Channel 12 News on Wednesday, he regurgitated his usual incitement against members of the Arab parties’ Joint List. “As far as I’m considered, they’re a fifth column – people who want to destroy the State of Israel from within and work against its interests,” he said.

This unbridled incitement, which blossoms at times of tension, has a destructive political effect. The argument heard from almost every part of the political spectrum is that the operation in the Gaza Strip effectively spiked the possibility that Kahol Lavan chairman Benny Gantz would form a minority government supported by the Arab parties, and therefore the only way to save Israel from a third election is a unity government based on President Reuven Rivlin’s proposal.

This, however, isn’t a logical conclusion; it’s a conclusion that reveals the fact that Arabs are second-class citizens who undergo an accelerated process of delegitimization every time they don’t stand at attention in response to an emergency military call-up issued by the prime minister.

Moreover, the two main inciters, Netanyahu and Lieberman, are exploiting both the tense security situation and their polished racist rhetoric to put enormous pressure on Gantz to enter a unity government based on the president’s proposal. Gantz, who until now has demonstrated impressive steadfastness, must not cave into this pressure. Soon, the dense smoke of the rockets will dissipate, and Israel will once again be overshadowed instead by the picture of the serial criminal suspect Netanyahu, the man who is unfit to be prime minister.

The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.