Israel’s future hinges on 12 Arabs. These Arabs belong to the Joint List, which is now the third largest party in the Knesset. If they weren’t in the Knesset, Benny Ganz would have no chance of forming a governing coalition, and Netanyahu would be prime minister with a right-wing bloc of least 61 seats.
But they are in the Knesset, and Israel therefore finds itself in a stalemate, possibly heading to a third election within a year.
This is not the first time Israel’s future has rested on Arab MKs. In 1993, the Oslo Accords effectively came up for a vote in the Knesset. It received majority support – just barely – thanks to the votes of Arabs. Think about that: An agreement that led to the surrender of biblical lands and the deaths of 2,000 Jews passed Israel’s legislature in part because of the votes of non-Jews.
Merely raising these facts is enough to elicit cries of racism, but – truly – does it make any sense for Arabs to vote on the national destiny of the Jewish people? “Israel is a democracy!” people argue. Yes, it is. But it is a democracy that was set up for Jews. It’s a Jewish state. And in a Jewish state, only Jews should vote – just like in a mosque, only mosque members can vote, and in a papal conclave, only Catholics can vote.
Saying so shouldn’t be controversial. Every country has the right to determine who qualifies for citizenship. And some countries set the bar very high. For example, Japan – a thriving democracy – generally will only grant citizenship to someone who’s ethnically Japanese.
Judaism doesn’t believe in racial tests, but it does believe in ideological ones. Wish to join the Jewish people? You’re more than welcome – but you must first commit to its constitution: the Torah. If you don’t, you will be treated fairly and humanely as a guest, but you cannot vote on issues affecting the future of the Jewish people.
People generally dismiss this issue, believing that Israel’s Arab parties are small enough that they can be ignored. But they now have 13 seats. And if all Israeli Arabs would vote (many boycott Israeli elections out of love for the Jewish state), they would have nearly 25 seats. That’s correct: 25 seats.
Rabbi Meir Kahane famously argued that Arabs don’t belong in the Knesset (or even in the country), but he was hardly the only one to do so. Professor Paul Eidelberg, who received his PhD from the University of Chicago – hardly a bastion of Kahanist ideology – makes the same argument in Jewish Statesmanship: Lest Israel Fall.
In it, he proposes that Israel have a bi-cameral legislature (like America, England, and many other countries). Every resident in Israel would be allowed to vote for the lower house, which would oversee the operation of traffic lights, construction of roads, policing, etc. Only Jewish residents, however, would be allowed to vote for the upper chamber, which alone would have the power to enact laws on vital issues affecting the national character of the state such as charedim joining the army, buses operating on Shabbos, ceding biblical land to the Palestinian Arabs, etc.
All the above would apply even if Israeli Arabs were perfectly loyal to the Jewish state. In fact, though, they’re not. There’s a reason Golda Meir once said the Israeli Arab birthrate keeps her up at night. There’s a reason leftists insist that charedim join the army but not Israeli Arabs. There’s a reason it isn’t unusual for an Arab MK to voice support for terrorism against Israel. The fact is that the loyalties of most Israeli Arabs lie, not with Israel, but with her enemies. Everyone knows it, but no one dares say it.
Over the next few weeks, pundits will endlessly analyze and scrutinize the moves of Netanyahu, Gantz, and Lieberman. What they won’t do, unfortunately, is discuss the elephant in the room: Arab representation in the Knesset.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the positions of the full editorial board of The Jewish Press.