Many were surprised by the recently formed alliance between Mansour Abbas, chairman of the Ra’am Party, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, which included Abbas’s announcement that he is happy to cooperate with Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich.
Actually, this should come as no surprise, considering similar partnerships that we have long been witness to between anti-liberal, anti-pluralist elements that would have been considered adversaries due to their ethnic, religious and sectorial affiliation.
Some examples are in order. For one, we have long witnessed a connection between the Evangelical religious Right in the US that is on the same side of the political divide as Orthodox and ultra-Orthodox Jews, both in America and Israel. Evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jewish voters support the same candidates in elections and favor appointment of conservative justices to the Supreme Court. Both view their fellows of more liberal denominations and practice – liberal Jews in the eyes of Orthodox Jews and liberal Christians in the eyes of Evangelicals – as political enemies.
Another example is the cooperation between leaders of populist right-wing parties in Europe, Brazil, and Asia, some of whom have distinctly antisemitic backgrounds, and the Israeli government. These populist leaders view the conservative Israeli government as an ally against Muslim immigrants and a partner that shuns the essence of the liberal state – the courts, the media, and an open-minded, vocal civil society.
We are also witness to a pattern where the Israeli government has long supported perpetuation of Hamas rule in Gaza. Israel assists Hamas by streaming funds from Qatar and by various leniencies. At the same time, Israel comes down hard on the secular, compromising leadership of the Palestinian Authority. The element connecting the Israeli government and Hamas is strong opposition to any political compromise.
Is it possible that the beliefs connecting those who do not respect minority rights, who do not respect the right of LGBT people to love and marry as they please, who do not respect women’s rights to choose whether to keep an unwanted pregnancy or to refuse being a victim of polygamy, are stronger than their ethnic and religious affiliations? Apparently, that is usually the case.
This is a reactionary phenomenon related to globalization, progress and science, all inherent to pluralism and liberal ideals. It is this reaction that unites the anti-pluralistic fringes into alliances that would never have been imagined.
As far as Abbas the Islamist is concerned, the connection with secular elements, nationalists and even communists in the Joint List is far less natural than the connection with the Israeli religious Right, which sees secularism as a threat, including women’s rights, LGBT rights, and other liberal values.
Perhaps Abbas and Netanyahu could serve us liberals as an example. Together, we could choose to cease using the debate over the historical narrative between Arabs and Jews to divide our camp. Instead, we could choose to unite the pluralistic elements of our society around universal liberal values that serve both Arabs and Jews. They could serve as an example of how we can rally around a united political camp of Arabs and Jews, in opposition to the conservative forces.
It is imaginable that a unified camp of Arab and Jewish liberals could connect with liberal Jews in the US who also want the State of Israel to support the rights of minorities, promote religious pluralism and prevent religious coercion.
Perhaps it is precisely this strange alliance between Ra’am and the Likud that can challenge the old political order and establish a political home, one able to channel the energies of the young protesters from Balfour and the bridges throughout Israel, a home capable of restoring the vision of the pioneers who drafted Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Such a political home would serve to align us with our extended family – the countries of the free and liberal world.
**The article was published on Jpost, 28 December 2020.