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Racism, militarism and ultra-capitalism: The government's real vision

Three major laws were passed in the Knesset this week: One against the Palestinians parties, the second against the ultra-Orthodox, and the third against the prospect of peace. 

Netanyahu’s coalition mobilized this week to pass its centerpiece legislation: the draft reform, the governance law and the referendum law. It’s not a coincidence that those three laws are directly targeting those who are not represented in the government – the first takes aim at the ultra-Orthodox community, the second at the Arab citizens of Israel, and the third is meant to torpedo a future agreement with the Palestinians. The laws were passed together, as part of a political package deal between all coalition members and using rare legislation protocols against the opposition.

The governance law – a joint initiative of Yair Lapid and Avigdor Lieberman – is probably the biggest lie of them all, as it seeks to solve a problem that does not exist: political blackmail. Israelis prefer the word “extortion,” a term used by the elites against the attempt by minorities to organize politically and demand their share of the national wealth and resources. Somehow, those who complain about such maneuvers are always the richest, most powerful elements of society. Between their fifth apartment, the investment portfolio and the SUV, the most urgent need they have is to cut 20 shekel-a-month child welfare payments to the ultra-Orthodox community.

This specific law, however, will not even deal with the ultra-Orthodox, who are often referred to as the “parasites” of the Israeli electoral system. The new bill raises the Knesset threshold (the share of votes necessary to enter the parliament) to 3.25 percent, or roughly four seats. This, by coincidence, is the exact share usually won by the Palestinian parties – who never became part of any government and therefore were never in a position to “blackmail” anyone. Let’s be honest – Lapid and Lieberman always ranted about the Arab representatives in parliament, and now they are simply trying to throw them out of the Knesset.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein (photo: Koby Gidon / Government Press Office)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein. In order to pass the new bills, the coalition used unique protocols against the opposition. (photo: Koby Gidon / Government Press Office)

In an interview to Yedioth Ahronoth this weekend, Lieberman even went as far as estimating that the Palestinians will find it very hard to unite and cross the new threshold. He has a point – while theoretically the Arab parties run under a single ticket, this would be an extremely difficult coalition to maintain, which could actually attract less voices. Religious Islamists will now need to vote for secular candidates, the Jews who vote for Hadash will find themselves with the more radical members of Balad, and so on. For the racist politicians of Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beiteinu, victory is almost guaranteed.

Much of the same goes for the “equal [military draft] burden” hoax. Equal burden is an empty slogan in a country where nothing is equal – assets, rights or legal privileges. Israel desperately needs to diminish the influence of the army over its society and to introduce the Orthodox into the job market. The draft reform law does the opposite: It inflates the army and continues to link the issue of work with army service, at least in the ultra-Orthodox communities’ consciousness. As a result, the law might actually stop some of the positive trends that took place recently among the ultra-Orthodox. The right move should have been allowing Haredi community to work without losing their Yeshiva allowances, and simply leave out the issue of service.

The free riders in Israel are not Yeshiva students; at most, they are caught in a problematic political arrangement. The free riders are those benefiting from tax breaks and loopholes, from the fact that Israel has no tax on inheritance, or from the distributions of national treasures to the super-rich, or from the privatization or national services. Naturally, Lapid will never challenge these problems, because they benefit his friends, his supporters and his donors.

For dessert, the coalition has given us the referendum law, which places another hurdle in the unlikely event of a genuine intention by an Israeli government to end the occupation, be that on its own or as a part of a peace accord. According to this piece of legislation, any handing over of territory governed by Israeli law (like the Palestinian neighborhoods and villages in and around East Jerusalem, or territory west of the Green Line which could be made part of “land swaps”) must be approved by a national referendum. This seemingly democratic measure follows a false logic – as if ending the occupation is and should be an Israeli “choice” – one that the public could make or alternatively reject for an unforeseeable future.

It is therefore worth reminding that indefinite control over civilian population, or the introduction of two separate legal systems for two ethnic populations, are illegitimate by their nature, regardless of what the Jewish public in Israel decides. Not to mention the fact that referendums were never part of the Israeli political tradition. If we are to have one why do it only when it comes to peace? Why not a referendum on the settlements? Or on the next war? In Israel, a simple majority can privatize the health system and a government decision can order war, but human rights are something that needs to be put into question at any given moment.

If someone still thought that there is a difference between the politicians that comprise this coalition – Netanyahu, Lieberman, Bennett, Livni or Lapid – this past week removed any doubt. There might be some nuances in their rhetoric – this one wants to maintain the diplomatic process while the other is interested in the price of dairy products – but in action, when it really counts, they are all united by their contempt for Israel’s minorities and its poorest populations, as well as their support for the occupation and the settlements. Racism, militarism and ultra-capitalism – this is the vision of the Israeli government for the coming years.


* A slightly shorter version of this text was published in Hebrew on TimeOut Tel Aviv’s March 13 issue.

Time to end the delegitimization of Arab Knesset members
Knesset raises threshold to four seats, putting Arab parties at risk of not entering parliament
What Yair Lapid’s anti-Zoabi comments reveal about Israeli politics

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    1. shachalnur

      The nasty part is that Herzog(Labor) will support them when push comes to shove.

      They all have owners,from Bibi the furniture salesman,to Lapid ,the sockpuppet of the owner of Yediot Aharonot.

      “Give me control over a country’s finances ,and I do not care who makes their laws”.

      It’s enough to control Science,Gold,Lawmakers,Judges and the Executioner to control all.

      These people don’t represent anybody but their sponsors,certainly not “The Jewish People”.

      Israeli democracy is an illusion,it’s historically been the Labor governments that started the bloodiest wars,and the Likud that made the “peace-accords”.

      In the end they are all controlled by the same forces.

      These new laws are there to make sure none of the non-controlled parties will get too much traction when TSHF.

      Ha’am(The People)stopped having any influence since “The People”(Ha’am)requested to be replaced by a Foreign Banker”(source :Wiki)

      Zionist Israel is a Banker creation,and there’s a price to pay,even if this price means collective suicide,these Banker slaves will follow orders.

      So don’t complain about racism,militarism and ultra-Capitalism,”The People” requested it themselves,so that’s what you’ll get.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Kolumn9

      It is like a Bizarro world in this article. Referendums are anti-democratic, raising the voting threshold to a level below most of Europe is racist and actually working towards having Haredi Jews integrate into society is militarist and ultra-capitalist, or was it racist? I got confused.

      So, from the beginning. The threshold was raised in order to prevent the splintering of larger parties. It had previously been introduced and supported by both the current leader of the opposition and by the current leader of the Meretz party. The Arab parties will be impacted because they are small, as will other small parties, not because they are Arab. When previously faced with similar hurdles the Arab parties managed to run joint lists without too much trouble. Tibi ran with Balad in 1999 and then broke away. The same will happen now and everyone, including the Arabs huffing and puffing and Noam himself, know this to be true. Arab representation is unlikely to be impacted as a result of this law. This is a boring and mendacious red herring that happens to be useful to people peddling the narrative of Israeli racism.

      The draft law is one that will gradually bring more Haredim into the military and even more will be allowed to go out to work immediately. About 30,000 Haredim can now leave the yeshivas and go to get jobs as a result of this law. The Haredim have been avoiding military duty for too long and letting the secular Israelis carry the burden. Now, at 10-15% of the population, the old status quo of Haredi men avoiding the draft and staying in their yeshivas studying Torah is no longer sustainable. I don’t see any reason why I should continue to sponsor their draft dodging or to sponsor their economically unproductive pursuits. In my view the law is too generous to the Haredim and in private they too know they got a great deal. It allows them to very gradually be weened away from the ‘problematic political arrangement’ and will benefit them economically, both individually and as a community. It will also benefit the rest of us because there will be more people working and paying taxes and fewer people getting paid to do nothing. I am pretty sure you know that. So unless you have decided that there is major inherent value in the study of the Torah and that you wish to continue to see it sponsored it is hard for me to avoid concluding that the problem you have with this law is that it actually strengthens Israel.

      The last law is the referendum law. The law forces an Israeli government to faithfully represent the Israeli people in negotiations because it knows that it would have to get them to approve a referendum afterwards. It is difficult for me to see anything even remotely anti-democratic in such a law. Certainly it strengthens the Israeli negotiating position because it ensures that an Israeli leader can not be railroaded into making concessions that his people can not support. On the other side Abbas is basically promising a referendum as well to assure his people that he will not agree to compromises they are not willing to make. I simply do not understand how one can consider the latter to be legitimate on democratic grounds but not the former.

      This approach of categorizing anything that strengthens Israel or the Israeli negotiating position vis-a-vis the Palestinians as inherently racist, ultra-capitalist, anti-peace or anti-democratic is somewhat boring. The only interesting thing is to read the rather absurd justifications for such categorization.

      All the outrage around these laws is hyperventilating hypocrisy.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bar

        Excellent response.

        Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        You seem to forget that the Ultra-Orthodox,Palestinians and other anti-Zionist populations in Israel are a significant and growing minority.

        Is it 40% already,against the current State?

        Any comparison with Europe stops there.

        The fact that you ,as occupier(Palestinians) and threat(Orthodox),think you can tell the oppressed what’s best for them is nauseous.

        History has never treated anybody like you kindly,and never will.

        Reply to Comment
    3. lolnub

      and thats why jews will win eventually while arabs get to martyr each other while leftist sing “kumbaya , send jews back to auschwitz”

      Reply to Comment
      • shachalnur

        1. “Jews will win”

        2. “Arabs kill each other.”

        3. “Leftist send Jews to Auschwitz.”

        Three strikes,you’re out.

        Need some help to stick your bat where the sun don’t shine?

        If +972 accepts these kind of comments,I’m off…..like the foreskin said to the Rabbi.

        Reply to Comment
        • Tzutzik

          “If +972 accepts these kind of comments,I’m off…..like the foreskin said to the Rabbi.”

          Good comparison, comparing yourself to a foreskin.

          Reply to Comment
          • shachalnur

            You are the first person that I know of, who claims to be a Jew and has no sense of humour whatsoever.

            In spite of the fact I think you’re commiting a huge mistake,I repect anybody who tries.

            But I’m really starting to dislike you as a person;humourless,disingenuous,bitter,hatefull and sneaky.

            I might stop writing here,because you’re not the only one here.

            People like you make me feel ashamed to be a Jew,and I have small kids around me.

            It makes me feel strange,nauseous.

            So,see you later,and good luck with whatever you’re trying to do.

            I hope you have someone to share your heroics with.

            Reply to Comment
          • Tzutzik

            “You are the first person that I know of, who claims to be a Jew and has no sense of humour whatsoever.”

            Is that what you call it? Sense of humour? Stop flattering yourself. At best, you have a derivative sense of humour, quoting other people’s humour in the wrong context.

            You don’t like me? Well boo hoo I am crying crocodile tears. I stopped liking you ever since you exposed yourself for who you really are. A hateful, spreader of malicious conspiracy theories and malicious rumours made up by our enemies. And yes, some so called Jews are our enemies too. People like you for instance.

            Reply to Comment
    4. The representation law will also tend to stabilize both Lapid and Lieberman’s parties, as Knesset share is thereby redirected to fewer lists. I suspect Lapid, who knows that parties such as his have short lives, finds this a major benefit. Lieberman, who has seen his vote share slip with the Likud single listing, probably sees it too. Lieberman, being clearly anti-Arab citizenry (so his revival of corporately stripping citizenship of Arabs in the triangle), must see the disarray of Arab political leadership as a political plus; but, as you note, Arabs have never had standing in any coalition government, so his glee if there is just kick the man while he is down. While the law is tangentially an extension of Nakba, its meat is ruling coalition stability under the guise of election reform.

      The same happens in the US, under Congressional redistricting, but by the autonomous States. In Israel, and any pure list system absent constitutional control, the ruling parties can directly affect their future standing. That, in my view, is the real problem.

      While I agree with you that in all three laws minorities are being controlled without real representation, the Orthodox minority is a State creation itself. I would advocate a national service as draft with options other than just the IDF; would include Arabs in that draft but have only a small percentage initially directed to the IDF, the rest other service; and would do the same for the Orthodox. An incomplete draft based on racial and religious lines is a mistake and, I think, against your Declaration. Placing an IDF quota would also allow one to approach possible IDF bloating by lowering that quota as needed.

      The referendum law is democratic for the victorious power but obviously not the losers. It simply makes annexation a populist measure directly, and I suspect retention of East Jerusalem indeed has majority support. If the referendum is over a whole peace package then one can make some appeal to democratic logic; if only over East Jerusalem it is more an attempt to predefine outcome. Since the ruling coalition really has no interest in withdrawing from EJ, this law’s major effect, apart from populist electoral appeal via opinion polls, is to force future government to repeal a “democratic act” if such wants to put EJ on the table. Actually, the best the PA can ever hope for is some buildings in EJ surrounded by Israeli authority. The referendum law is simply another indicator that only one nationalism is real, another indicator of coming Greater Israel. Which leaves a confederation as the only viable option long term.

      While I do believe there is a latent explosive issue over “hypercapitalism” and the middle class, it is quite common to use marginals to direct focus elsewhere. So the middle class, especially the low end, can feel good that the free ride of the Orthodox is coming to an end. I think that change does need to come, but I think as well that the diversion of focus will be short lived.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Philos

      I wonder what the Americans will say when the Knesset elects Bibi or one of his clones as Prime Minister For Life (Or Until The Messiah Comes (Whichever Comes First))… Then again we shouldn’t expect salvation from a regime that blows up al-Qaeda “suspects” (usually civilians) in Pakistan, arms real al-Qaeda in Syria, empowers neo-Nazis in Ukraine, and try’s to overthrow a democratically elected government in Venezuela. In fact there’s no lie in the expression that Israel and the USA share core values

      Reply to Comment