Feature

Israel: The rise of the ultranationalists

The Israel Is Our Home party made such a strong showing in last week’s national elections that it will have to be included in any new ruling coalition.

Palestinians are bracing for an Israeli “government of war,” said the pan-Arab Al-Quds al-Arabi in an editorial. The “extremist and racist” Israel Is Our Home party made such a strong showing in last week’s national elections that any new ruling coalition probably will have to include it. The two contenders for prime minister—Tzipi Livni of the center-right Kadima party and Benjamin Netanyahu of the hard-right Likud—are courting Israel Is Our Home’s leader, Avigdor Lieberman, with promises of plum ministries in exchange for his support. He has been very clear about his two demands: “not to enter in any peace process with the Palestinians” and “to crush the Hamas Movement” entirely. And let’s not forget his most notorious suggestion, that Israeli Arabs be forced to declare loyalty to the Jewish state.

Lieberman isn’t the hatemonger here, said Gerald A. Honigman in the West Bank–based Arutz Sheva. Israeli Arabs have become a fifth column in Israel, openly cheering Hamas terrorists who seek to destroy the country. “They are supporting terror, murder, and the destruction of the very nation in which they live, and the murder of their fellow citizens. If the above isn’t treason, then I’m the Passover Bunny.” It shouldn’t be too much to ask that Israel’s Arab citizens—who, unlike minorities in most Arab countries, enjoy full citizenship, with language rights—vow their loyalty to the country. If they can’t do that, why are they citizens of Israel at all?

As an Israeli Arab, I have to admit there’s a grain of truth in that argument, said Ali Zahalka in the Tel Aviv Yedioth Ahronoth. The Arab citizens of Israel did not rise up to demonstrate against the rocket attacks from Gaza on Israeli towns. Nor did we demonstrate against the brutal repression of Gazans by their Hamas rulers. Instead, we spoke out only against Israel’s onslaught on Hamas, “the most radical element in the Arab world.” No wonder we managed “to make the Jewish public hate us so much that many are willing to support a racist party.” Lieberman’s ascendance is a real threat to Israeli Arabs. We can counter it not by becoming even more radical, but by supporting moderate, inclusive parties “that are still willing to give us the opportunity to integrate as citizens with equal rights.”

What parties would those be? asked Nasser Lahham in Bethlehem’s Palestinian Ma’an News Agency website. The three main contenders in the Israeli elections—Likud’s Netanyahu, Kadima’s Livni, and Israel Is Our Home’s Lieberman—“were all, historically, leaders in the Likud party.” Most Palestinians see “no difference among them.” Israeli Arabs should remember that even the “moderate Zionist Left” is still Zionist. It is no friend to Arabs—whether they live in Israel or in the territories. Ultimately, then, it doesn’t matter who becomes prime minister. In Israel, “more elections mean less democracy and likely more wars.”

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