Israel: Not Jewish, not Democratic
Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we?
Looking ahead at 2013 and beyond, there are two distinct trends which I see that are coalescing into one unmistakable reality: Israel is not going to be either a Jewish or Democratic state down the line.
We’re not going to be democratic because there is very, very little chance we’re going to have a two-state deal with the Palestinians.
The way things are shaping up, our next government will likely be the most right-wing we’ve ever had here and its common denominator will be the annexation of large areas of the West Bank and ratification of a report which says that Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria are legal under international law. Whether you agree with this worldview or not, the fact is that most members of the next government are going to work to make this a reality.
The Palestinian leadership in the West Bank is the most ‘moderate’ we’re ever likely to have here and what’s depressing about that is that even the maximum that a moderate Israeli government is willing to give isn’t anywhere near the minimum the Palestinians are willing to accept. And since we’re not going to have a moderate government here for at least the next four years, the Palestinians are not going to get their demands. And after the ‘moderate’ Palestinians go, their successors will be much more extreme.
So there won’t be peace and there won’t be two states.
A few weeks ago I reported that in a closed meeting Avigdor Lieberman said that when the day comes, and it will come, when Israel has to choose between being either a Jewish or Democratic state, the government will choose Jewish over democratic. Lieberman argued that since Israel is the ‘only Jewish state in the world’ that this trumped being ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’.
There will not be a two state solution with the Palestinians in our generation, and possibly the one after that as well, Lieberman said. And he knows what he’s talking about.
So in essence we are looking at an Israel that controls about 4 million Palestinians and doesn’t give them the full rights of self-determination as enshrined in international law. No matter how justified our claims are to the places of our ancestral birthright [Shilo, Hebron, Beit El], without a deal with the Palestinians, the world is just not going to accept the rules of the game as we set them. The only game the world is ready to accept is a two-state solution that gives rise to a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish and Democratic Israel. There is no other game in town for them, and here I’m talking about our friends like America, Canada, England, France, Germany and Australia. I’m not even talking about the Arab countries, nor Indonesia, Russia, Brazil, China, India and many others – they couldn’t care less about our legitimate rights in this land. But our next government is going to hunker down and take on the world – and the world will oblige. So instead of trying to remain a democracy, maybe we should just let it go and lower the world’s expectations?
We never really were the only democracy in the Middle East, I’m sorry to say, but its true. Our democracy stops at the Green Line, and in any case is being quickly erased on this side of the line too.
Ok so it looks like we won’t be a democratic state. But we’ll be a Jewish state so that’s good enough, right?
But will we be a Jewish state?
In 2010 one-third of Israeli marriages happened overseas because these lovebirds didn’t want to deal with the Israeli rabbinate. What’s more, 90% percent of the roughly 300,000 Israelis who immigrated here under the Law of Return (and then told that they were not Jewish enough) aren’t interested in undergoing state sanctioned conversion. So they and their offspring – close to one million souls – won’t be considered Jewish by the state.
Add to that the West Bank Palestinian, Arab Israeli, Israeli Druze and Bedouin birthrate staying as it is now, and well, let’s just say they won’t be converting to Judaism anytime soon.
The soaring haredi birthrate and their continued stranglehold on the institutions of religious power increasingly alienate a majority of secular Israelis – many of whom, especially the young, are considering emigrating. Even modern orthodox Israeli Jews are not Jewish enough for the hardcore Haredim, whose number is increasing exponentially.
“We are fast approaching a situation where one half of the country doesn’t recognize the Jewishness of the other half,” says Rabbi David Stav, a leading modern-Orthodox rabbi and candidate for the post of Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi in the Chief Rabbinate.
So if half of the Jews here don’t recognise the other half, and the millions of non-Jews here are not recognized as full citizens, and the Arab Muslims and Christians in our midst are not full members of the Jewish state, how can we be a Jewish state?
The fact is that if there is no two-state solution [because neither the Palestinian Authority nor the Israeli government wants it] and no structural reform of state religious institutions in Israel, not only will Israel not be a democratic state it won’t be a Jewish state either.
And that’s why I’m not excited about this election. There’s no binary outcome here, no ‘either or’, no alternate realities to choose from. It’s not about war or peace. It’s not about deep reform or status quo. The result is predetermined; this is our fate, whether we want it or not.
And in that case I suggest a dose of realism. Instead of holding onto time-worn platitudes and slogans, I say we start calling ourselves what we truly are: a state in the unmaking, neither fully Jewish nor fully democratic and heading away from both.
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