Between a rock and a hard place

Joinng a coalition is not so simple for the Joint List, and much less simple for Israel.

Sheri Oz

OpEds Protest tent set up outside Rivlin's home
Protest tent set up outside Rivlin's home

Netanyahua sked that members of all parties set aside political differences in order to come together in an emergency government to make decisions all our lives depend upon. And it appears that Gantz thinks the Joint List should be part of that emergency government. Bibi says supporters of terror against Israel, represented by Ayman Odeh, cannot be in the government.

Contending with the question of Joint List 'in' or Joint List 'out' puts ALL parties, including the Joint List, in a bind.

Even if the Joint List is willing to say that they will not insist on their demands (listed at the end of this article) being met before joining an emergency government, there is danger for the Jewish state in inviting them in. This gives them a legitimacy that may prove to be a game-changer.

It would likely be stipulated that asking them to take an active part in this worthy goal of dealing with the Corona pandemic, (a danger that, unlike war against our neighbour-enemies, does not draw any ideological or political fire) does not imply acceptance of their anti-Zionism. Yet, inviting participation of a party that does not hesitate to support terrorism against the very state in whose legislature they sit lowers the boundaries preventing their inclusion in later governments without them denouncing their antagonism to the state.

In addition, legitimization of the Joint List so proferred may mean that we will see more of this kind of headline:

Israeli-Arab high school holds 'Palestine Day,' wipes Israel off the map - Inside Israel

Israeli-Arab high school holds 'Palestine Day,' wipes Israel off the map...

Shfar'am high school once awarded by Education Ministry holds 'Palestine Day' featuring PLO flags, maps of 'Pale...

and that can never be countenanced.

On the other hand, refusing to offer them a place at the table during this temporary emergency situation may be regarded by many Israeli Arab citizens as a slap in the face, another example of Bibi's so-called racism. And those Arabs who are on the fence regarding how much to trust the Jewish state to care about their needs may be pushed into the Joint List arms even more securely than they are now. After all, while about 90% of the Arab population voted Joint List in these last elections, it does not necessarily imply great love for the Joint List representatives. But the bar has been lowered.

The Joint List is also in a damned if you do - damned if you don't situation.

If they accept the invitation to participate, agreeing to temporarily set aside their problems with the Jewish state as a Jewish state, they are in any case normalizing cooperation with the Zionists. That is something to which the Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians (and the Arabs in the Joint List call themselves Palestinians) are adamently opposed. Will their electorate expect them to continue to cooperate with the Zionist government after Corona has subsided and perhaps abandon them if they do not?

If they do refuse the invitation, will their electorate be angry with them? Will they feel it is an example of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face? And will that destroy the momentum the Joint List has built up for itself in this latest election round?

Refusing to cooperate at this point seems to imply the answer to a very fundamental question: What does the Joint List care about most: improving the lot of the Arab sector in Israel or bashing Israel and supporting Ramallah? And a refusal to cooperate when everyone's health is at risk may compel those who voted Joint List to reconsider the wisdom of putting the Joint List chit into the ballot box. Perhaps.

So are there some political differences that can be put aside for an emergency like this? Or not?

Perhaps a unity government can be formed without them, because here are the demands of the Joint List

  • rescinding the Kaminetz Law that allows demolition of illegal building and seems to be mainly directed toward rampant illegal wildcat building in the Arab sector, because every couple in Arab society wants its own house and plot of land. That is an issue that truly demands attention.
  • rescinding the Nation State Law. This law prevents success for those who want to abolish the symbols of our Jewish state. Since personal equality is also enshrined in a basic law, it provides the necessary balance when the courts are asked to adjudicate in issues in which personal rights and collective Jewish rights seem to be in conflict.
  • building a hospital in an Arab town. This should happen. Former Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked inaugurated the first courthouse to be opened in an Arab town. Let us see who will be the health minister who will cut the ribbon at the ceremony opening the first hospital in an Arab town.
  • establishing a new Arab city. The necessity of this and not just the symbolism should be examined. Perhaps they are enchanted with the new Arab city of Rawabi in the Palestinian Authority and want something like that for themselves here in Israel.
  • plans for improving law and order in the Arab sector. Efforts of Arab municipalities to do just that have, until now, been stymied by the Joint List itself.