The Joint List’s decision to ask President Reuven Rivlin to give Kahol Lavan Chairman Benny Gantz a chance to form the next government is worthy of praise.
The fact that representatives of the Arab community in Israel were willing to recommend a former chief of general staff as their candidate for prime minister cannot be taken lightly. Nor can one underestimate the magnanimous political spirit displayed by the Joint List, headed by Ayman Odeh, when it chose to ignore the videos with which Gantz opened his campaign, in which he boasted about killing 1,364 of their people during the Gaza war of 2014, and which showed the destruction of entire neighborhoods in the Strip.
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This is the first time since 1992 that an Arab party has recommended a candidate for prime minister. In that year, the lawmakers of Hadash and the United Arab List asked the president to task Yitzhak Rabin with forming the government. Then as now, they supported a candidate who was hardly ideal from their perspective.
Odeh and his colleagues recommended Gantz as the lesser of two evils, recognizing that not recommending him was tantamount to recommending Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has incited against them mercilessly during all his years at the helm, and even more strongly during every election campaign. Gantz didn’t exactly earn their support; he received it as a gift from the corrupt and corrupting Netanyahu regime that had marked Israeli Arabs as an internal enemy, a fifth column and dangerous accomplices to terror.
After the decision, Ahmad Tibi tweeted, “History has been made today; we will do what is necessary to bring down Netanyahu.” The move by the Arab lawmakers is indeed historic, and one must hope that the Kahol Lavan leadership, headed by Gantz, will rise to the occasion.
To do so Gantz and his colleagues will have to make substantive change to their approach. The Joint List’s demands include a freeze on demolitions in Arab villages, the establishment of a team to examine the issue of unrecognized villages, revoking the Kaminitz Law, which cracks down on illegal construction mainly in Arab communities, and the implementation of cabinet resolutions on combating violence in Arab society. At the same time, they are demanding the revocation of the Nation-State Law and the launch of a diplomatic process with the Palestinians.
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The move by Odeh and his colleagues will force Gantz to bring about a fundamental change in the way Israeli society relates to its Arab citizens and their legitimate political representatives. The stain of the Nation-State Law, which codifies Jewish superiority and Arab inferiority, must be removed from the law books of the State of Israel.
We were reminded what kind of government and rhetoric a Gantz government must halt on Sunday, when Avigdor Lieberman referred to the members of the Joint List as enemies. Rivlin must give Gantz the opportunity to form a government that instead of inciting against the Arabs, will work to integrate them.
The above article is Haaretz’s lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.