In keeping with the coalition agreements between Likud and Otzma Yehudit, PM Netanyahu’s cabinet on Sunday debated a proposed resolution placing a decisive weight on Zionist values in the decision-making and policy of all government ministries. The resolution was promoted by Otzma’s Minister of the Negev, the Galilee, and National Resilience Yitzhak Wasserlauf.
As it turned out, two entities objected to the resolution: Attorney General Gali Baharav-Miara, Gideon Sa’ar’s gift that keeps on giving, but also the Haredim in the government who are not, you know, Zionists, and, in fact, on ideological grounds are against the Zionist movement.
The AG issued a statement saying that should the Zionism resolution were to pass as is, she, the AG, would not defend it before the High Court of Justice and would, in fact, argue that it is illegal.
According to Israel Hayom, Prime Minister Netanyahu screamed in response, something he very rarely ever does): “I am not ready to tolerate such a thing. The planning institutions determine policy on their own.”
The PM added: “The deputy to the AG says to me, ‘Let’s hold a discussion.’ I don’t want to order a discussion, I want to set policy. This situation is absurd. In any case, this proposal is important, it should be passed as written.”
One of the reasons behind the AG’s objection is that the government cannot bypass the Knesset, certainly in a matter of crucial value about which a reference was made in the Basic Law and in High Court rulings.
The proposed resolution, which is anchored in the nationality law––a Basic Law––in case of a conflict between the Jewish and Democratic values, Jewish takes precedence. When the nationality law was initially submitted to a Knesset vote, it included a clause to this effect to which the AG objected, saying that Jewish and Democratic values are intertwined and the balance between them is concrete, according to each case.
The underlying purpose of the resolution, which explains why it was submitted by the Minister of the Negev, the Galilee, and National Resilience, is to give preference to Jews, especially Jewish IDF veterans, in access to housing and land in northern and southern Israel, where Jews are greatly outnumbered by Arabs.
Minister Wasserlauf said at the cabinet meeting regarding the AG’s objection: “There is discrimination against Jews. If you are a Muslim or a Druze, then you get a 91% discount on the land. If you are a Jew, you are discriminated against. In the name of equality, we are losing the state. As a minister, I cannot establish Jewish settlements. The late Menachem Begin established a program establishing Jewish mountaintop observatories. Today this is impossible.”
Haredi Jews were opposed to political Zionism since its founding in the 1890s. Haredi leaders objected to its secular orientation, and until the establishment of the State of Israel, the vast majority of Haredi Jews were anti-Zionists. Over the years, most Haredim have adapted to life in a secular Jewish State, and are active participants in its politics. However, “Zionist values” still mean very different things to national religious and Haredi Jews.
Over the strong opposition from his Haredi coalition partners, who called the resolution “dangerous,” Netanyahu moved the debate to the meeting of the coalition heads of the coalition. He instructed Government Secretary Yossi Fuchs to write a gentler version of the Otzma resolution.
So, no longer pass it “as written.”