Opinion

Israel’s Right Must Stop Splintering – and Reach Out to the Arab Community

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the start of the 2016 school year in the Israeli Arab town of Tamra.
Gil Eliahu

The voter who describes himself as center-right has only two options: Likud or the right-wing bloc that must be formed. The right, which has been splintering for the past 20 years, doesn’t draw any conclusions from the high price that it and the country are paying for that tendency, and must stop splitting like an amoeba – at least when it comes to politics.

So that the members of the religious right won’t be forced to relinquish entirely the enjoyment they derive from splintering, I remind them that there remain innumerable options for such an approach. They can split in the synagogue – anyone who is displeased that he wasn’t called up to the Torah at the right time can start another prayer quorum. And each rabbi can build his own yeshiva or kollel – a yeshiva for married men – so that he won’t be robbed of the dream of serving as a yeshiva head.

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You can continue to divide your schools based on ethnic groups, the weak, the strong or simply snobs, but leave politics alone. Enough. You’ve caused enough damage. Religious Zionism has no more strength to pay for personal whims and egos.

In the recent election alone, Religious Zionists headed three Knesset slates: Hayamin Hehadash, the Union of Right-Wing Parties and Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party. We must form a bloc that will unite all these splinter parties. Anyone who doesn’t join the bloc will be aware that right-wing voters will no longer vote for his party.

We lost eight seats that didn’t pass the electoral threshold, we voted for a party headed by someone who stole the votes of right-wing voters and within six months brought down a right-wing government twice. How many times will you believe the same false prophets?

We, the center-right bloc, constitute about 65 percent of the electorate, so if we conduct ourselves properly, we will be able to form governments in the future, too.

And one more thing: I know that I will lose support and infuriate many good friends by what I’m about to write, but we must tie our fate to that of Israel’s Arabs.

Most of the Arab community is interested in three things: education, the economy and personal security. As part of this common denominator we must build a shared life and set aside issues that have no solution in the foreseeable future. For hundreds of years, Jews lived in Muslim countries, flourished there, prospered and felt protected. Now that the situation is reversed and the Jews are the majority, there is no reason why the Muslim minority can’t live here in comfort and with full cooperation, including a partnership in leading the country.

It’s precisely the Israeli right that can and should build a bridge to the majority of the Arab community. Over the past two years I have met with many Israeli Arab leaders who are not afraid of identifying with these goals. They feel that the Israeli left exploited them for decades and used them as political cannon fodder, and admit that what is being given to them by the right-wing government, in terms of budgets and respect, is something they never received in the past.

One example is the fact that representatives of the Arab community didn’t attend the funeral of left-wing President Shimon Peres because they had received nothing from him. On the other hand, many Arab citizens felt a need to console President Reuven Rivlin on the death of his wife Nechama, even though he’s a Revisionist – a staunch right-winger.