Drawing the Line

Haim Watzman

The sad story about the election Israel will hold tomorrow is that, no matter what the precise results, the balance of power will be held by a group of legislators contemptuous of the principles of democracy.

Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party seems almost certain to become the country’s third largest parliamentary faction and, as such, a member of whatever ruling coalition the new prime minister forms. Lieberman is not new to the Knesset and he has held cabinet portfolios, but with between 15 and 20 parliamentarians in his faction, he will be far more powerful than he has ever been before. Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni of Kadima and Ehud Barak of Labor already granted Lieberman legitimacy by agreeing to sit in a government with him, but in the new government he will possess both legitimacy and power.

Press reports about Lieberman have focused on his promise to require Israel’s Arab citizens to sign a loyalty oath in order to preserve their citizenship. Stripping citizens of their rights because of their political views and ethnic origin is manifestly anti-democratic, but that’s hardly where it ends….

Read the rest on Jewcy–Comment there or here.

6 thoughts on “Drawing the Line”

  1. I can’t undertand why people are uniquely opposed to Lieberman. Sure he’s a thug and a bully and probably a fascist (Rudy Guiliani on steroids) and we would be way better off without him. But as far as I can tell he’s *much* less bad than the far-right religious parties, for whom eternal oppression of the Palestinians and contempt for secular humanistic values are fundanental religious obligations. He’s also less bad than the hareidi parties, who also want to overturn the modern state and all modern values. In the long run, right-leaning Archie Bunker type nationalist Russians are much more likely to be a part of an Israel that a secular liberal (or a religious liberal for that matter) would want to live in.

    It seems to me that Tzipi Livni ought to offer him membership in an all-secular government that will give him everything else he wants (ministries, budgets, civil marriage, cuts to yeshiva budgets, etc.), in exchange for toning down the anti-Arab rhetoric. Would he take such an offer?

  2. Its funny how Ben-Gurion can be held up as a paragon of democracy. The elections held in 1949 for what is now called “The First Knesset” was actually at the time billed as elections for a body that would draw up a constitution. Since BG didn’t want to be bound by a constitution, he unilaterally proclaimed the body to be a Parliament, i.e. the Knesset. Herut MK Hillel Kook (who had, as Peter Bergson, been actively involved in Holocaust rescue) said plainly that Ben-Gurion had simply carried out a coup d’etat. However, he received little support, even the head of his own party, Menachem Begin, refused to support him. He soon left politics for good. So we see the contempt for true democracy that we see in Israel today has its roots at the very beginning of Ben-Gurion’s MAPAI rule.

  3. Sorry Haim, people like you and Gershon bear some responsibility for the rise of Lieberman. Pushing failed policies for 15 years that have seriously weakened Israel would eventually inspire a reaction. Post zionism sounded good initially, but Israel eventually realized that Ismail Haniyeh is not Richard Simmons or Mister Rogers, and that the UN would not defend Israel. After 15 years of slumber, Israel is waking up like Rip van Winkel and it doesnt like what it sees. So, before castigating Israel for voting for Lieberman, take a good look in the mirror

  4. Remember how Ben-Gurion kept the Israeli Arabs living under military government? It was Menachem Begin, Levi Eshkol and others who finally pushed for removing it.

  5. I have nothing against a loyalty test for Israelis, including Arabs, but I would extend it to Tel Aviv as well

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