Editorial

Not One Israeli Opposition Member Stood in Solidarity

The opposition's failure to protest when members of the Arab parties’ Joint List were removed from the Knesset proves only the Arab MKs truly oppose the occupation and seek peace

Haneen Zoabi being escorted from the Knesset during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence's speech, January 22, 2018.
Yitzhak Harari / Knesset

If members of the opposition want to know why they fail time and again in their efforts to pose an alternative to the Netanyahu government, they should pause for a moment over their decision to stand on the sidelines when the Arab Knesset members were removed from the hall during U.S. Vice President Mike Pence’s speech.

Instead of conducting public opinion polls, organizing focus groups and spending huge sums on advice from seasoned political strategists to break the code of their electoral failure, the opposition parties should ask themselves why they remained silent when the Knesset decided to remove members of the Arab parties’ Joint List just because they dared violate the legislature’s bylaws by carrying protest signs into the hall with the slogan “Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine.” A simple inquiry would reveal the deep dark secret, the sought-after explanation for the peace camp’s political powerlessness: If this is how the opposition behaves, then what’s wrong with Benjamin Netanyahu?

The opposition MKs’ thunderous silence harmonized perfectly with the loud applause by senior ministers in the most right-wing and dangerous cabinet in Israel’s history – applause that accompanied the unprecedented removal of an entire party from the hall. It also fit nicely with the wild incitement against Arab MKs voiced at the end of the session by, among others, ministers Zeev Elkin and Avigdor Lieberman, who called them traitors and accused them of representing terrorist organizations.

Arab Israeli lawmakers escorted out of Pence speechHaaretz

It was actually President Reuven Rivlin who, with his own applause, mapped out the boundaries of Israeli nonpartisanship – a nonpartisanship that, when put to democratic tests, has been revealed time after time to be nothing but a synonym for the Jewish common denominator shared by both political camps. This common denominator is too narrow to include Israel’s Arab citizens.

Joint List Chairman Ayman Odeh said he was proud “to lead the Joint List in voicing a strong and legitimate protest against the Trump-Netanyahu regime – against the extreme right that glorifies racism and hate and that, while paying lip service to peace, does everything in its power to distance peace.” He stressed that the protest in the Knesset came in the name of all Israelis who oppose the occupation and dream of peace.

Odeh is right. The only ones who faithfully represented opponents of the occupation, seekers of peace and lovers of Israeli democracy on Tuesday were the members of the Joint List. All the other opposition members, by their spontaneous apathy, proved that their leader is none other than Netanyahu, and that they deserve their marginal role in the nationalist puppet theater that the prime minister manages.

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