There is quite a hullabaloo ongoing with regard to the inclusion of the Otzma Yisraelit faction on the Bayit Yehudi-National Union list (in a technical merger, which means they go their separate ways after the election).
In an effort to move past the hysteria and the accusations, I want to provide a perspective and some basic facts.
The Balad Party, a faction within the Arab Joint List in the Knesset, opened its primaries in Nazareth on February 2 with the Palestinian national anthem. Explained party chair, Jamal Zahalka, who is not running for the Knesset (because of Balad’s rules regarding term limits), Balad “is not part of the Israeli left, but is an inseparable part of the Palestinian national movement.”
Both Azmi Bishara ‒ a former MK with the Balad party who fled Israel in the midst of allegations that he was spying for Hezbollah, and Basel Ghattas ‒ another former MK with the Balad party who is now in Israeli prison for smuggling cell phones to terrorists in prison, sent greetings to the assembled party members. Clearly the party has not disavowed association with them, and very likely salutes them.
Perhaps the most notorious member of Balad is MK Haneen Zoabi, who has decided not to run again. An open supporter of Hamas, she once called for “millions” to march on Jerusalem. She has said Israel is a “fascist” state, has referred to Israeli soldiers as “murderers” and justified the kidnapping of the three Israeli youth in 2014:
“We blame the Israeli government, whose terrorist policies are responsible for what has befallen the Palestinian people and which is responsible even for the kidnapping.”
Ahmed Tibi is an Israeli citizen by virtue of having been born in an Arab-Israeli city; he describes himself as an “Arab Palestinian” by nationality.
In the 80s, when studying medicine at Hebrew University, he became involved in politics and began to attend PLO meetings in various locations around the world; this was at a time when meeting with PLO members was a criminal offense in Israel (he was arrested for this once). He established a connection with Yasser Arafat in 1984, in Algiers. He described their relationship as “close,” and said it was “important” to him.
After Oslo, he became an advisor to Arafat and represented the Palestinian Arabs at the Wye River negotiations in 1998. Subsequently, he resigned his position in order to run for the Knesset. His party, Ta’al was part of the Arab Joint List but has now pulled out and will be running separately.
Tibi allegedly supports a “two-state solution,” but not with the formulation of an Arab state and a Jewish state side-by-side. His position is that Israel as a Jewish state is “racist” – although apparently a Palestinian Arab state that would be Judenrein is not. He believes Israel should be a “state of all its citizens,” which is a code-term for the elimination of the Jewish Law of Return, the Israeli flag and Hatikva as the anthem. At the same time, he supports the Arab “right of return.”
If Ahmed Tibi had his way, Israel would be finished.
I have long wondered what is wrong with us, that we allow Arab Israelis such as those described above to sit in the Knesset. I see this as political correctness run amok – it is self-destructive.
The members of the “Palestinian National Movement” sitting in our Knesset are all bad news.
But Tibi is by far the worst. Arafat, whatever face he showed the world, was an unregenerate terrorist. He promoted and planned and funded terrorism even after Oslo and had a clandestine working relationship with Hamas. If Tibi was his advisor, and felt close to Arafat, it is a certainty that he was involved in somehow advocating or providing advice with regard to terrorism.
What is more, in negotiations between Israel and the PLO, he sat on the opposite side of the table!
And yet he sits in our Knesset.
Rabbi Meir Kahane, a vastly controversial figure, was a strong advocate of Jewish self-defense. His thinking was influenced by his father, who was involved in the Movement for Revisionist Zionism and had been a close friend of Jabotinsky. Deploring the image of the Jew as “weak and vulnerable,” Meir Kahane sought to change it to that of a “mighty fighter.” Thus he founded the Jewish Defense League, which skirted on the edge of, and occasionally resorted to, violence. Primarily, JDL focused on alleviating the plight of Soviet Jewry; it was Kahane who coined the phrase “Never Again.”
He made aliyah in 1971 and founded the Kach party, which advocated application of sovereignty to all of the areas taken in 1967 and the forcible removal of all Arabs. After a couple of failed attempts, he was elected to the Knesset in 1984. In 1988, the Kach party was banned from the Knesset because its platform included “incitement to racism.”
In 1990, he was assassinated in New York City by terrorist El Sayyid Nosair, who was later linked to the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993.
I do not condone all of the positions that were advanced by this ultra-nationalist, but he focused on issues that it is important to wrestle with in seriousness.
I am opposed to the notion that all Arabs should be banished from Israel because it is a Jewish state: Those Arabs who are loyal Israeli citizens should continue to be afforded all rights and benefits, as is the case now, and enabled to live here in safety.
However, for me the corollary to this is that there must be incumbent upon them the same responsibilities born by Jewish citizens. Right now they are exempt from military service, although some small numbers volunteer. If they are uncomfortable serving in the army because this might mean doing battle with other Arabs, they should be provided with an opportunity to do national service instead – and this service might be done within their own communities. But they should serve.
However, we also have an enemy within: there are Arab citizens and residents of Israel – notably in the Negev, in the triangle area of the Galil, and in eastern Jerusalem – who embrace terrorism and are not infrequently affiliated with Hamas, which is dedicated to the destruction of Israel.
Here we see Sheikh Raed Salah, an Israeli citizen and leader of the northern branch of the radical Islamic Movement in Israel, in Umm el-Fahm.
We have been much too lenient with them, and it is an embrace of political correctness that underpins this leniency. Raed Salah has been arrested time and again, but he is still here and continues in the same vein.
I believe that any Israeli Arab who actively supports and abets action to undermine the State of Israel – inciting to terrorism or participating in/providing support for terrorist acts – should be stripped of citizenship/residency rights and shown the door.
I do not condone wholesale violence, but if those embracing terrorism need to be forcibly escorted out of the country, I would have no problem with that.
I have had people tell me that previously they did not support Kahane but now realize that he was right.
Because of the suffering Jews in Israel have endured – those dead, those wounded, those bereaved – as a result of our leniency with the hostile Arabs within our midst. How much should Jews endure in the name of providing Arabs in Israel with rights?
Of course, all suffering by Jews as a result of terrorism is not at the hands of Arabs inside of Israel proper. A good part comes from the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, in areas administered by the PA. How they should be handled is a question not yet resolved, and it is an issue far too complex for me to deal with extensively within the context of the current discussion.
I heartily applaud application of sovereignty – though the question of whether only to area C, for now, or to the full area is still being debated. Kahane was a passionate proponent of full sovereignty.
Once the Arabs living in these areas are under Israeli jurisdiction, the issue of what to do with them will have to be resolved. Anyone associated with terror or devoted to the downfall of Israel should be forcibly expelled forthwith. It would be prudent to encourage others to leave peacefully – financial benefits are being suggested.
As to those who remain? The idea of citizenship only for those who are vetted and demonstrate loyalty to Israel is being promoted as one way to handle the situation.
Finally we come to the matter of Otzma. From left, below:
Michael Ben-Ari, who has a prestigious background in high level religious study (to PhD level) and teaching, was formerly associated with Kach. He previously sat in the Knesset with National Union and is now number five on the Bayit Yehudi list;
Attorney Itamar Ben-Gavir, who is number eight on the list, was a youth coordinator with Kach;
Baruch Marzel, who joined the Jewish Defense League as a teenager, was an associate of Kahane;
Benzi Gopshtein, once active with Kach, is founder and director of Lehava, an anti-assimilation group.
The members of this party – which is certainly a very far-right religious nationalist party – are being referred to as Kahanists or disciples of Kahane. But their positions, while influenced by Kahane’s philosophy, have moderated.
While I definitely do not find everything they embrace to my liking, I would find it to be the height of double-standard hypocrisy if they were blocked from the Knesset while anti-Israel Arabs are permitted to sit there. One does not have to agree with everything they advocate in order to recognize their right to have a voice in the Knesset.
And I remind my readers again that the motivation for their inclusion on the Bayit Yehudi list was not extreme right ideology but rather pragmatic politics. The goal was to increase the opportunity for the Bayit Yehudi faction to pass the threshold, and to strengthen the right-wing bloc. At most, Otzma will have two seats in the Knesset.
Says Rabbi Dov Fisher:
“What was on the table: Either Jewish Home and Otzma merge for the election, assuring a continuing religious-right Government, or they run alone, handing the Government to the Left even though the Left will have fewer votes and reflect the minority…
“This is not a time for a bunch of politically untested ex-generals, whose actual political positions are not even known, to experiment in an area outside their experience…”
In an effort to understand what Otzma stands for, I went to their party platform, which is available only in Hebrew.
They declare that the Land of Israel was given to the Jewish people by the Almighty, as written in the Torah, for all eternity. It happens that I, too, believe this. But you can be totally secular and still recognize that this is a perfectly valid position, which is embraced as well by others who sit in the Knesset.
It goes without saying then, that Otzma advocates strong Jewish education and a significant influence of Jewish law on the administration of the land. Sovereignty must be applied to all of the land and Israel must have complete control of the Temple Mount.
As to the Arabs, I encountered a certain ambiguity in the platform – but definitely a shift from Kahane: the emigration of the “enemies of Israel” should be encouraged. But who are the “enemies of Israel” and how should their emigration be encouraged? The platform does not say, but see more towards the end of this post.
It is important to know that there is nothing in the platform that explicitly condones violence. Whether the positions of this party inadvertently promote violent actions on the part of some is something I am not equipped to address, but this has been suggested to me and the thought is worrisome.
Their platform is solidly anti-assimilationist. Where marriage is concerned, I concur. Jews must marry Jews if we are to retain a solidly Jewish state.
But they are anti-fraternization, and this is where they leave me behind. They are opposed to Jewish-Arab schools; I understand the rationale here, as this inevitably has the potential to promote Jewish-Arab romances. The notion of no fraternization in business or other dealings, however, makes me terribly uncomfortable. Me? I am delighted when I go into a hospital and see Jewish and Arab doctors and nurses working so well together. Ah, I think, this is how it should be!
In a recent interview with Times of Israel, Itamar Ben-Gvir stated (emphasis added):
“All they have to say is ‘Rabbi Kahane, Rabbi Kahane’ because they have nothing on us.
“They’re bringing up things that are from more than 30 years ago, when it’s clear that we’re not in the same place anymore.”
He says that those who are loyal to the State are welcome. “But those who are not must be expelled.”
In a JPost interview, he defines “enemy of Israel” as “someone who wants to wipe out the State of Israel, someone who doesn’t want a Jewish state, someone who doesn’t want Jews in Israel, who wants to expel us, and destroy us. Someone who does terror attacks here, someone who throws stones and petrol bombs and someone who murders Jews…
“We do not want to expel all Arabs as a group. Those who are loyal, fine. We will not come to Umm el-Fahm and expel all of Umm el-Fahm. I don’t think like that. But someone who is not loyal needs to be sent away from here.”
In that same interview, Baruch Marzel suggests that financial inducements would be used and that billions of dollars would be required to resettle them in different countries:
“we have to use the Jewish brain to find the right way to do it with no blood or aggression.”
This position does not sound “extreme” to me.
Otzma, however, would not grant citizenship to the Arabs of Judaea and Samaria once sovereignty is applied.
I hope I have shed some light, and not compounded confusion, with this post on a complex subject. All of the many other items that I am eager to share and discuss will wait until next week. Many items, indeed!