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Arab MK Ahmad Tibi Photo: Benny Deutsch
Arab MK Ahmad Tibi Photo: Benny Deutsch
 
 

Include Arab party in coalition

Op-ed: Jewish state's strength measured in part by its ability to protect minorities' rights

Naftali Rothenberg
Published: 02.10.13, 10:37 / Israel Opinion

Speaking at the President's Residence after being tasked with forming the next government, the prime minister called on Abbas to return to the negotiation table. The Palestinian leader may or may not return to the table, but in any case, peace, at least at this point, is not high on the agenda of the "equal share of the burden" government, which will begin its term with a major budget cut.

 

Will the third Netanyahu government also be about the political survival of the man at its helm? Should he include an Arab party in the coalition, Netanyahu will be able to form a government that will carry a message. "In every cabinet where the prime minister is a Jew, the vice-premiership should be offered to an Arab, and vice versa." These words were written by none other than Ze'ev Jabotinsky.

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Menachem Begin, who ordered the strike on the Iraqi nuclear reactor, saw to it that an Arab judge would be appointed to the Supreme Court for the first time in Israel's history. Netanyahu should follow in Jabotinsky's and Begin's footsteps and launch serious and sensitive coalition negotiations with United Arab List-Ta'al and its leader, Ibrahim Sarsur. An Arab party should have the freedom and space to be part of a coalition while remaining true to the government's principles.

 

The years have not been good to our democracy. We've witnessed wild incitement against Arab citizens; incitement that began with words and ended with physical violence. Much to our shame, the leaders of this campaign were rabbis who allegedly spoke in the name of the Halacha and the Torah of Israel. But what should concern us most is the support they receive from broad segments of the Jewish public.

 

Long educational process

This evil wind penetrated the Israeli Knesset. Instead of continuing to promote legislation that strengthens democracy, it promoted legislation that contradicts Jewish and democratic values. Those who believe the election results guarantee a significant change in this regard are mistaken. The prime minister himself will have to lead this change.

 

The erosion of the basic tenets of democracy weakens our country's resilience as a country of the Jewish nation. Israel remains a democracy, but it is a democracy in crisis. Democracy in a nation state cannot be detached from the particular nation's identity, as expressed in its culture and tradition. The State of Israel does not have to be a Jewish state that is also democratic or a democracy that is also Jewish. We must seek full integration: The democracy should be spoken in the Jewish language, and Judaism should be spoken in the language of democracy. This entails a long educational process with the participation of all the different groups in our society.

 

For hundreds of years Jews served as advisors and moderating elements in rulers' courts. There, in the Diaspora, we preached for more democracy and equality. But the State of Israel, which was established to correct a historic injustice inflicted on a nation that was exiled from its land, is not rushing to implement the existential moral claim when it comes to its minority groups, which are demanding equal rights and the opportunity to be a part of the ruling system – as equals.

 

The independence of the State of Israel as the Jewish nation's country is measured in part by the integration of its minority groups and the preservation of their honor.

 

It is incumbent upon the Jewish majority in the country to allow members of the Arab minority to exercise their rights as citizens of the state. The Arab Knesset members are obligated to work towards improving the lives of their constituents, and Prime Minister Netanyahu must include them in his next government.

 

Rabbi Professor Naftali Rothenberg is a senior research fellow at the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute

 

 

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