A constitutional crisis for the Jewish State
A constitutional crisis for the Jewish State

I feel it is imperative that we deeply understand that the Blue and White party’s turning to the Arab Joint List is just not another act of political game playing in order to attain office and pass personal laws to make it impossible for Binyamin Netanyahu to serve as prime minister. Inviting the Arab List to be active mainstay of a Gantz government constitutes a historical, ‘constitutional ‘ crisis for the Jewish State. 

Very simply, Gantz and his compatriots are writing in very large letters on the wall that Israel is  a ‘state of all its citizens’, and that Israel can no longer be historically seen as the State of the Jewish people, a state whose reason for being is to historically develop and actualize the needs and character of our Jewish people. In fact, Gantz and his compatriots are writing in very large letters on the wall that Israel is  a ‘state of all its citizens’, and that Israel can no longer be historically seen as the State of the Jewish people.
Gantz is tearing up Ben Gurion’s Declaration of Independence and declaring it null and void. 

In this article I want to  briefly outline the constitutional issues at stake, and not focus on immediate questions of everyday  politics, or bring up from the archives a long list of quotes that show that the members of the Joint List see themselves as fighters for Palestinian nationalism, and are in reality ‘subtle, soft’ or outright supporters of terrorists. Both these issues are true and real and are being very adequately dealt with by other commentators. 

The two-tier constitutional model that ensures a Jewish State

First tier: equal, civil rights for all individual citizens 

There are really only two constitutional choices at stake. One is the conservative, nationalistic, Torah based model, and the second, a   liberal, individual rights based model. (Clarification :Israel does not have a constitution. I am using the term ‘constitution’ to refer to the basic principles of our governmental structure).  

The ‘conservative’, nationalistic, Torah based model argues that  “Peoplehood\national entities have legitimate, moral political ‘rights’, alongside the civil and political ‘rights ‘ of individual citizens. I will explain this model as it relates to the State of Israel. It will help us to picture this constitutional arrangement as a two-tier regime.

On the ‘first floor’ all individual citizens are guaranteed equal access and treatment to the complete range of governmental services. Jews and Arabs have equal standing with regard to the civil judicial system, governmental services (health, education, social welfare benefits, police protection, business assistance, taxes, and housing assistance).

Second tier: Political leadership which will give priority to developing and ensuring the Jewish character of the State of Israel

The regime’s ‘second floor ‘ are the governmental leadership bodies  whose purpose are to set and enact polices that concern the safeguarding and development of the nationalistic, Jewish character of the Israeli state. These leadership bodies are thus concerned with the areas of defense, immigration and aliyah, nternational relationships, defining Israel’s boundaries, land and settlement development, and defining the relationship between civil and Jewish religious laws (for example, Shabbat and family laws). In these areas, only Jewish citizens and leaders can be the decisive actors in deciding policy.

Arab citizens can be consulted, their views should be taken into consideration, but ultimate decision making has to be only in the hands of the Jewish leadership. The survival, character and future of the Jewish state must be determined only by Jews.

A Jewish, nationalistic constitutional model is not racist

This two-tier, nationalistic model is not ‘racist’. In an ideal situation, an Arab political party could also be a part of a governing coalition, but under the following conditions

1) the Jewish parties form a majority by themselves, so that the government’s existence is not dependent on the Arab party.

2) the Arab party accepts (‘in silence’) the principle that the State of Israel exists to further the development of the Jewish people (with full respect for the individual civil rights of its Arab citizens), and does not publicly contest the legitimacy of the Jewish people to have a state in the Land of Israel, and does not support terrorism in any manner

3) the Arab party will hopefully be an effective advocate and agent to see that the Israeli Arab sector gets its fair share of government support  for its educational, health, internal security, employment and housing developmental needs, the way haredi parites currently do for their constituents. I believe that the honest participation of an Arab party that accepts the Zionist character of the Israeli state can actually strengthen our Jewish state.

I have to admit  that this conservative , nationalistic, two-tier model is a minority opinion, and gets little backing, in today’s political science academic discourse. It is primarily based on the political studies and analysis of Torah scholars. But, in a  utopian fashion, I believe the fact that the state of Israel is the world’s most successful post-1945 state gives great credence to the constitutional thinking expressed above.

The liberal, individual rights constitutional model-Israel as a state of all its citizens

The opposing, liberal, individual rights model constitutional choice argues that only individual citizens have moral, politically legitimate rights. And all citizens have identical, equal political rights. Nations have no political rights.  Nations can exist only in the cultural-ethnic heritage realm. To prefer the interests of one national group over another is discriminatory, illegitimate, and close to a form of ‘fascism or racism’. Very simply, modern liberal, constitutional thought grants no political legitimacy for the establishment of a state for, and of, the Jewish nation.  The political concept of a ‘nation/peoplehood ‘ does not exist in their political lexicon A nation is simply an ad hoc, ever changing, body of individuals with certain individual freedoms, and demands\’rights’ for receiving governmental services. (Here is not the place to dissect the liberal hypocrisy in ‘legitimizing’ Palestinian Arab nationalism, which calls for a Judenrein state, and simultaneously delegitimizing Jewish nationalism). 

I am not sure that Benny Gantz  and friends truly understand the constitutional implications of actively involving an Arab party ( that refuses to recognize the Jewish people’s rights to a state of its own) to be  a major actor in their desired governmental coalition. But when Gantz accepts their ultimatum that ‘you will not have a government if there is annexation of the Jordan Valley’, he is  letting non –Jews determine the fate of the Jewish State, and this constitutes a very negative constitutional revolution. 

This liberal, individual rights constitutional model is accepted by post-modern political scientists as the most legitimate constitutional model. This very sad fact constitutes a dramatic challenge to all conservative, Zionist, Torah oriented political thinkers in our Jewish state.

Summary:  The Torah’s answer to an uncomfortable question

A leading newspaper "quoted" a leading Israeli Arab physician rhetorically asking “I am here in the hospital, risking my life treating cornovius  patients alongside my fellow Jewish physicians, Why can’t the party I voted for sit in the next government?”

For twelve years I worked as a social worker alongside fantastic Israeli Arab medical workers, and this doctor’s question does make me feel he deserves a straight answer.

The Torah answer to his uncomfortable question is the one we gave above: Israel is the state of the Jewish people. You and I have equal civil rights, but only Jews can make the leadership decisions that will detemine the survival and character of the Jewish state. As a social worker, of course, I would never discuss this political question with him. It would very negatively affect our ongoing professional cooperation.

It is not easy to defend  a constitutional model rejected by the vast majority of today's academia. It is not easy arguing for a truth that does in reality make professional co existence more difficult. But we have the actual fate of the Jewish people in our hands, and must do our job without being influenced by current political correctness, and G-d will surely support us and help us succeed.