In his NYTimes op-ed, “Bibi’s Big PR Stunt“, Colin Shindler writes as if he’s become unmoored from comprehending what Benyamin Netanyahu actually said.
a. It seems that Mr. Netanyahu wishes to define the country as the nation-state solely of the Jews.
b. Israel’s first right-wing prime minister, Menachem Begin, did not make the 1979 Camp David agreement with Egypt conditional on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.
c. The suggestion that Israel should be recognized as a Jewish state emerged clearly after the Israeli army’s offensive in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead.
d. It seems that the idea only became a matter of apparent Zionist conviction with the formation of Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition with far-right parties in 2009.
e. For many of the early Zionists, a “Jewish state” meant a state with a Jewish majority in which the Jews could exercise national self-determination. It did not mean an exclusive state of only Jews. Nor did it suggest an implicit “transfer” of its Arab inhabitants. Even Vladimir Jabotinsky, the revered forefather of the Israeli right and a close associate of Mr. Netanyahu’s father, remarked in January 1938 that “it must be hateful for any Jew to think that the rebirth of a Jewish state should ever be linked with such an odious suggestion as the removal of its non-Jewish citizens.”
f. In the context of the unresolved situation on the West Bank, it purports to elevate Jewishness over democratic norms.
Now, let’s do the simple thing first. Review what Mr. Netanyahu said on May 4, 2014.
“The State of Israel is a Jewish and democratic state. Our basic laws give full expression to the democratic side of the state. We do this by providing full equal rights to every citizen in Israel…
…On the other hand, that the State of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish People is not sufficiently expressed in our basic laws, and this is what the draft basic law is meant to provide. It will define the national right of the Jewish People over the State of Israel, without infringing on the individual rights of any Israeli citizen in the State of Israel…It will anchor in a basic law the status of the national symbols – flag, anthem, language and other aspects of our national experience. These aspects are under a constant and increasing assault from abroad and at home.
But the foundation of the existence of the State of Israel stems from its being the national home of the Jewish People and from the Jewish People’s deep links to the Land of Israel. Of course, there are those who do not want the State of Israel to be defined [so]…They want a Palestinian nation-state to be established alongside us and that Israel should gradually become a binational, Arab-Jewish state inside shrunken borders…
The State of Israel provides full equal rights, individual rights, to all its citizens, but it is the nation-state of one people only – the Jewish People – and of no other people. And therefore, in order to bolster the status of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish People, I intend to submit a basic law that will anchor this status [and that]…the values of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state are preserved.
…during the previous government’s term, proposed a draft law on this issue, I announced immediately that I would support it…
If anyone can claim, even in the pages of the New York Times which gets its “facts” about Israel wrong on too many occasions, that what Prof. Shindler (whom I know personally) asserted and what Netanyahu said are similar, I guess there is something wrong with their reading glasses.