J.J. Goldberg has a smart take on Israel’s “nation-state” bill. He begins by stressing how redundant it is for Israel to keep proclaiming itself a Jewish state when the UN recognized it as such in the 1947 partition vote, which the PLO ratified in 1998. The bill’s contribution, he concludes, “is not to define what Jewish statehood includes, but what it excludes: Arabic language, Palestinian national pride, a religion-neutral legal culture”:
It’s no accident that the legislation’s sponsors and main backers are the same right-wing factions, in the Likud and Jewish Home parties, that are fighting hardest against territorial compromise and Palestinian statehood. They’re not worried about international opinion. Their problem is the built-in flaw in their own blueprint for the future. Holding onto the territories, maintaining a single state between the Jordan and the Mediterranean, means creating a binational state. The advocates face growing pressure — and anger — from the military, academic, arts and legal communities and other sectors, all demanding to know how Israel can absorb two million-plus West Bank Palestinians without losing the Zionist vision of a Jewish state.
Their answer is to ground the state’s Jewish character — its language, calendar, legal culture, national anthem — in a quasi-constitutional basic law that can’t be amended except by a Knesset super-majority. That’s how they intend to defend Jewish statehood: by relegating the culture and values of today’s non-Jewish minority to the sidelines and ensuring they stay there, even if and when they become a majority.
The messy political battle sparked by the bill came to a head yesterday when Netanyahu abruptly fired the bill’s main opponents, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Finance Minister Yair Lapid, saying he would “no longer tolerate an opposition within the government”. The move effectively demolished his coalition, forcing new elections that could take place as soon as March. Zack Beauchamp believes the coalition’s collapse was inevitable:
The reason that Livni and Lapid, rather than Bennett and Lieberman, are being dismissed is simple enough: