In Haifa, Israel, it is much easier to find a restaurant that serves pork than one that doesn’t. In fact, Israel has a fully vertically integrated industry of pork products, one of the best in the world. From raising the pigs to making exquisite delicacies from their flesh, to marketing said delicacies in huge delicatessens the like of which cannot be found in any North American city, it is all done in Israel and it is all done by Jews.
All of the Israeli public holidays coincide with Jewish religious holidays with the sole exception of Memorial and Independence days. On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, you can take a stroll down the middle of any highway or city street because there is no traffic. Israel is full of paradoxes. Israelis can eat pork and shrimp for lunch in a Chinese restaurant right after they leave Saturday morning services in a fully Orthodox synagogue to which they drove in their cars and feel totally fine with all of it. Israelis can know, deep down, that they are fulfilling the two-thousand year old dream of returning to the land of Zion and Jerusalem, as our national anthem, Ha’Tikvah (The Hope) says and the same time wish to lead normal lives just like everyone else.
Israelis do not LARP at being Israelis as many diaspora Jews do. They are what they are.
Election 1.0 in April has gone according to plan; the seemingly ironclad coalition cobbled together by PM Netanyahu from secular and traditional security hawks, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi ultra-Orthodox, religious Zionists many of whom reside in Judea and Samaria, and the 1990’s repatriates from the ex-USSR held fast with a strong 65 seat majority. Except it didn’t. In a surprise move, the leader of the “Russian” faction, Avigdor Lieberman, pulled out and without him there was no majority. Hence the new election that we have just now had.
Lieberman’s declared goal was to cut down the power of the religious factions in Israeli politics. He gambled his political life on Israelis, even the ones who cherish the Jewishness of the Jewish State, having had it with the vise grip hold that the religious parties have had on political power in Israel ever since its independence in the modern era. As it turns out, Lieberman was right. Far from being punished by his voters for preventing another right-wing-religious Netanyahu government and for opening the possibility for center-left government led by Mr. Gantz of Blue and White, Mr. Lieberman increased his representation in the Knesset from five to eight seats and made himself the undisputed kingmaker without whom no government can be formed.
So who are the winners and the losers? On the losing side, the biggest loser, is Netanyahu’s governing coalition of the secular center-right, “Russians”, religious right, and the ultra-Orthodox. This coalition no longer exists. Netanyahu himself is also a big loser in this election. His cries of “gevaldt” (save our souls in Yiddish) about a left-Arab coalition did not work and his Likud party came in second with 31 seats to Gantz’s Blue and White with 33. Finally and perhaps most importantly though not at all reported by any English-language outlet, the Jewish Power party, a party of Messianic right wing nuts, failed, thank God to clear the four seat minimum and gain representation in the Knesset.
Winners? Lieberman and Benny Gantz are the biggest ones, of course, but the real winners are regular Israelis who wish to live their lives in a state that allows them to do so freely according to their own definition of what it means to be a Jew. These Israelis want a vibrant free market, a strong military, and a robust defense policy. With their enormous sacrifice of blood and treasure as well as with good pragmatic decision making from their leaders they want to be shielded from the insanity of the Iran-inspired Hezbollah and Hamas. These are the winners of this election.
Now to the Arabs. The United List of the Arab parties is well represented in this Knesset with 13 seats. People on the right are freaking out. Either, they say, there will be a government that will include Arabs as part of its coalition or rely on their support from outside, or, in the case of a broad so-called “unity government” comprising of Blue and White, the Likud, and Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu, the Arab list will be the largest opposition party, making it the official opposition and as such the recipient of security briefings.
It is true, of course that the Arab members of the Knesset are self-avowedly against the whole concept of a Jewish state. In other words, they oppose Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people, a people whose very existence they also do not recognize. It is also true that the Arab members are active supporters of the worst of the worst, the bloodiest Arab terrorists, specifically those who murdered in cold blood Jewish men, women, and children.
To that I say: that’s great. What better opposition can there be than an opposition that opposes the very existence of the state in whose parliament they serve and which pays their salaries?
Someone asked me just a couple of days ago why Arab Israelis even have the right to vote in Israel. The answer is clear: in Israel, there is no taxation without representation. If you pay taxes to the Israeli government, as the Arab Israeli citizens do, you have the right to vote just like everyone else. Period. Israel was not, is not, and will never be South Africa or Rhodesia. Zionist leaders have always been far too pragmatic to contemplate the existence of minority Jewish population that would lord it over a majority Arab one. They knew that this would be a one way ticket to perdition, the kind of perdition that is now experienced by the South African Boers. It helps them not that they claim to have arrived at the tip of the African continent before the Zulus. Nobody cares. They sealed their fate when they failed to maintain a white European majority in the lands over which they had political and military jurisdiction. This is a mistake Israel will never make.
It is unlikely that Lieberman, who is a security hawk living in a small settlement in Samaria, will join a government supported from the inside or out by a party he only today labeled “enemies”: the United Arab list. What Israelis have voted for, what they deserve, is a government that represents two thirds of the Jewish population of Israel; a population that is pluralistic and secular while at the same time incredibly Jewish and Zionist. A government comprising of the three largest Jewish parties would be exactly such a government. And since this government will represent nearly all Israeli Jews, isn’t it only right that the official opposition represent the “other side”, i.e. the Israeli Arabs?
As to the possible security breach due to opposition briefings, spare me the drama. No real secrets are divulged in these briefings anyway and if they are, they shouldn’t be. Israel has faced far bigger problems than briefing the Arab party on security matters and will doubtlessly face them again.
Mr. Netanyahu, to his credit has been calling for such a unity government. Mr. Gantz, to his discredit, has so far been playing hard to get, refusing Netanyahu’s offer to meet privately. Gantz, an ex-Chief of Staff of the IDF and a newbie politician is not very well known in Israel outside of his mandatory, but failed venture into high-tech entrepreneurship. This is his chance to rise above petty personal beefs and prove himself to be a leader of Netanyahu’s stature. Many Israelis gave him the opportunity to do just that; let’s hope he is worthy of their trust.
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