In Israel, the Duty of Leftists Is Sometimes Carried Out by Rightists

Haaretz Editorial
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Lawmaker Benjamin Netanyahu in the first opposition meeting of the current Knesset, last month.
Lawmaker Benjamin Netanyahu in the first opposition meeting of the current Knesset, last month.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

Sometimes the work of leftists is done by rightists. Last night at midnight, the amendment to the Citizenship and Entry to Israel Law expired, after the coalition failed Monday night in its effort to obtain a majority for extending it. That the vote was declared a confidence motion made no difference.

Fifty-nine coalition members voted in favor – including all the Meretz lawmakers, who reversed their intent to oppose it, as well as United Arab List chairman Mansour Abbas and party colleague Walid Taha. But two UAL lawmakers abstained and Amichai Chikli, a Yamina lawmaker who is not a member of the coalition, voted with the opposition against it. This created a tie vote, which meant the bill did not pass. Thus, it was the right-wing opposition that brought about the change promised by the coalition.

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The expiration of the temporary amendment to the discriminatory law is a welcome result, and all lovers of democracy should be pleased. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett accused the opposition of intentionally causing “direct harm to national security.” This racist, nationalist and dangerous approach of Bennett and his associates must be rejected.

Yamina has adopted Benjamin Netanyahu’s ugly discourse, accusing the opposition “led by Bibi [Netanyahu] and [Ahmad] Tibi” of harming state security. Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked tweeted that “Anyone who has not seen Likud and Religious Zionist members celebrating with Ofer Cassif and Sami Abu Shehadeh has never seen madness in his life,” as if there was something bad about cooperation between Jewish and Arab lawmakers.

The opposition did not harm state security, because the law made cynical state security excuses to prohibit West Bank residents who married Israeli citizens from obtaining Israeli ID cards for demographic reasons. This is not speculation. Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said so outright: “We should not hide from the essence of the Citizenship Law. It is one of the tools designed to ensure a Jewish majority in the State of Israel.”

Although the opposition did not vote against the law for ideological reasons but out of pure political opportunism, the willingness of Meretz, Labor and UAL members to support such discriminatory legislation also stemmed from political opportunism. And accusing the opposition of undermining state security shows that there is nothing behind one of the change government’s major promises – to moderate the public discourse and stop the incitement.

The amendment to the Citizenship Law never should have been passed. But now that the temporary order has expired, the legislative path should be abandoned; rather, the government should draw up reasonable procedures for approving requests for family unification. Every case should be judged on its own merits, as is the case when dealing with requests by Jewish citizens, and no case should be dismissed in advance, certainly not based on ethnic background.

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

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