Thursday, May 17, 2012

For Jews only

Israel's new cabinet is driven by Jewish messianic fervor...

Salman Masalha || For Jews only

Our lawmakers had a sleepless night last week, although it was much ado about nothing. There is nothing new under the Israeli political sun. Ehud Barak may have feared losing his commanding position. Maybe Shas' chief feared the lion breathing down his neck, and Kadima's leader might have worried about Yair Lapid nipping at his heels. The prime minister may have been worried, too, about any change in the status quo.

I must admit, I don't understand what the pundits are complaining about. We simply went to sleep with elections in the air and woke up with a severe national-unity hangover. The night's "stinking maneuver," which supposedly surprised everyone, was no more than one small chord in a basic melody on which the pundits base their musical world. The people who for years ensured that the public was blasted by the mendacious melody called the Jewish democratic state shouldn't be surprised to wake up one morning with a Jewish undemocratic government.

From the moment the pundits followed in the footsteps of the politicians, both large and small, they carried this noxious melody everywhere. They were part of legitimizing the illegitimate in Israeli politics. Well, the new national unity government is the bitter result of that slogan that is rooted so deeply in Israeli society.

Let's remember that Shaul Mofaz was elected to head Kadima in part due to crates of votes from Arab clans; that has been the custom in these parts from time immemorial. But he didn't remember the favor his Arab voters did for him. When all the votes from the primary were counted, he discounted them. He did this because he never forgot "what it is to be Jewish," to borrow a phrase from another Jewish man Mofaz has joined in the coalition.

The sense of disgust from the conduct of politicians and small-time wheeler-dealers, regardless of religion, race or gender, isn't easy to bear. Whoever staged this behind-the-scenes maneuver and stopped the election from happening poses the real danger to Israeli democracy.

Some called this maneuver political sleight of hand from the school of the magician Benjamin Netanyahu. But Netanyahu's flip-flop isn't a reflection of strength. He had neither Iran nor the Tal Law in the front of his mind. The last straw came from an unexpected place: the High Court of Justice's ruling requiring the evacuation of the Ulpana neighborhood in the Beit El settlement. If Netanyahu hadn't called off the elections, that ruling would have put him on a collision course with the rule of law and a vociferous opposition.

The Jewish messianic understanding of the "Land of Israel" is what dictated the move. Now Netanyahu will surely find a way around the High Court with general Jewish support.

This isn't a national unity government. It's a mono-national government applying the slogan "Jewish democratic." This is the bitter truth, if we recall Labor Party chief Shelly Yacimovich's statement that she doesn't rule out joining the Netanyahu government after the next elections. Arab MKs have their own task - that of the fig leaf that covers the Jewish democratic nakedness.

So when Netanyahu marches securely in this Lilliputian country, when almost all the Jewish MKs bow to him while the pundits ride along on their commentaries, who needs elections and opinion polls? The game is fixed. Fixed for Jews only.
Published: Opinions_Haaretz, May 17, 2012

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