By Kent R. Kroeger (August 20, 2018)
On July 19th, the Israeli Knesset passed what has been called the Jewish Nation-State Law. The new law, which becomes part of Israel’s Basic Law does three things:
(1) Explicitly states “the right to exercise national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
(2) Establishes Hebrew as Israel’s official language, thereby downgrading Arabic to “special status.”
(3) And establishes Jewish settlement as a national value that will be promoted by the State.
This represents what is likely a de facto acknowledgement by Israel’s political Right that Israeli is headed towards the official annexation of the West Bank and the implementation of a One-State-Solution with Arab Israelis (mostly Palestinians) being legally relegated to second-class citizenship status.
Within Israel’s political class, opposition to the bill has been exemplified by Israel’s most potent challenger to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Tzipi Livni. While she had no objection to the text declaring Israel to be “the national home of the Jewish people,” she is no Leftist after all, Livni also argued the law needed a stated commitment to “equality for all its citizens.” In Israel’s Declaration of Independence, she noted, Israel promises “complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex.”
Livni has also stated support for a two-state solution which ensures Israel’s security and identity as a Jewish and democratic state. In fact, from 2006 to 2009, Livni served as Israel’s Acting Prime Minister, during which she led multiple rounds of peace talks with the Palestinians.
Outside of Israel, the Jewish Nation-State Law has been openly questioned.
“We are concerned, we have expressed this concern and we will continue to engage with Israeli authorities in this context,” a spokeswoman for European Union foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini told a news briefing.
Even the U.S., a strong ally of the Netanyahu government, has asked for clarifications from the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office. Officials in Washington are particularly concerned about the “Jewish settlement” clause and how that will impact the rights of minority groups.
Those most negatively impacted by the Jewish Nation-State Law are of course Arab Israelis. Jamal Zahalka, an Arab member of the Knesset and vocal opponent of the law, believes it will legitimize anti-Arab racism and increase the building of illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
“The law will now give illegal Israeli settlements legal backing and officially get rid of any possibility of establishing a Palestinian state in the occupied territories,” according to Zahalka. “The law will also back discrimination against Arab citizens who can be legally prevented from residing in Jewish-only areas.”
“Everyone understands what this law is,” says Israeli political scientist Galia Golan of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, near Tel Aviv. “It enshrines the Jewish majority as dominant and ruling without protection of the rights of anyone else. It definitely takes us out of the Western liberal democratic camp and puts us in the xenophobic super-nationalist East European camp.”
What Happens Next?
Like Donald Trump, Netanyahu stokes racist sentiments for political advantage. He ditches any pretense of trying to represent the interests of an entire country and, instead, foments social divisions that keep the people divided and less likely to reach a broad, lasting reconciliation between Jewish and Arab Israelis.
The Jewish Nation-State Law will add twenty years to any legal effort by Israeli Arabs to achieve equal rights in their own country. That is not merely an ancillary effect of the new law, it is one of its primary purposes.
On the other hand, it is time for everyone within and outside of Israel to realize the Two-State-Solution is officially dead and buried. It has no future and cannot be revived. The Israeli Knesset made that official on July 19th.
Now, progressive leaders in Israeli — Jewish and Arab — must recognize this new phase in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be contested more and more in courtrooms, not as much in street and border protests.
That could be a good thing as Palestinians, even with the Jewish Nation-State-Law, will not face as big an asymmetric disadvantage as they do when they confront Israel militarily.
There is still hope for a lasting, peaceful resolution to Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It just won’t include a Two-State-Solution — may it rest in peace.
About the Author: Mr. Kroeger is a survey and statistical consultant with over 30 -years experience measuring and analyzing public opinion. He currently lives in New Jersey with his wife and son (You can contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org)