Friday, December 06, 2013

What kind of state?

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, head of her own six-man faction called Hatnua or the Movement in the Knesset, which is part of the Likud-Beitanu coalition, is also the designated head of the Israeli team negotiating with the Palestinians. This was either a very stupid or a very cynical move by PM Netanyahu to appoint Livni to this post. After all, Livni has been opposed to Netanyahu on most counts, and if it were not for her desire for power she would not have joined the coalition, like Shelly Yacimovich of Labor. She is certainly more in favor of peace with the Palestinians than most of Netanyahu's natural allies in the Likud and on the right.

One of Netanyahu's major conditions for a negotiated settlement is that the Palestinians must recognize Israel as the Jewish State. But, Livni, in the midst of the negotiations, is about to oppose a bill before the Knesset declaring that Israel is the Jewish State. This is a common position of the left and the opposition to Netanyahu, namely that Israel should be classified as the State of all its citizens, and since ca. 20% of them are Arab, it is inappropriate to call it "the Jewish State."

I don't mind leftists and other anti-Jewish elements not wanting to call Israel the Jewish State. But to have a MInister of the Government coalition, and furthermore the leader of the negotiations with the Palestinians, adopt such a position publicly is downright ridiculous and galling. This is directly contrary to Netanyahu's stated position, so how can she represent the government in these discussions?

The issue revolves around to what extent Israel should be considered both a Jewish state and a democratic state. A bill before the Knesset sponsored by Israel Beitanu emphasizes the Jewish nature of the State. But, Livni has asked Hebrew University Law Professor Ruth Gavison to draft a bill that would balance these two aspects. In doing so Livni has asked Gavison to obtain opinions from around the Jewish world outside Israel. But, this is a foregone conclusion, since the predominant opinion outside Israel is that Israel should be more a democratic state than an ethnically or religiously Jewish State. Canvassing opinions from Jews abroad to some extent defeats the purpose of Israel defining itself according to the majority of its citizens' opinions.


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