Israel’s Right Needs Perpetual War
The facts must be acknowledged: The heads of the rightist parties have a strategic outlook and the ability to take the long view, and they also know how to choose the right tools to carry out their mission.
The proposed new amendment to the Citizenship Law, which is aimed at fomenting a state of constant hostility between Jews and everyone else, is just one aspect of the greater plan of which Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is the official spokesman. The other aspect is the foreign minister’s promise to the nations of the world that our war with the Palestinians is an eternal war. Israel needs both an external and an internal enemy, a constant sense of emergency – because peace, whether with the Palestinians in the territories or the Palestinians in Israel, is liable to weaken it to the point of existential danger.
And indeed, the right, which includes most of the leaders of Likud, is permeated with the awareness that Israeli society lives under a cloud of danger of breakdown from within. The democratic and egalitarian virus is eating away at the body politic from within. This virus rests on the universal principle of human rights and nurtures a common denominator among all human beings because they are human beings. And what do human beings have more in common than their right to be masters of their own fate and equal to one another?
In the right’s view, that is precisely where the problem lies: Negotiations on partitioning the land are an existential danger because they recognize the Palestinians’ equal rights, and thereby undermine the Jews’ unique status in Eretz Israel. Therefore, in order to prepare hearts and minds for exclusive Jewish control of the population of the entire land, it is necessary to cling to the principle that what really matters in the lives of human beings is not what unites them, but rather what separates them. And what separates people more than history and religion?
Beyond that, there is a clear hierarchy of values. We are first of all Jews, and only if we are assured that there will be no clash between our tribal-religious identity and the needs of Jewish rule, on one hand, and the values of democracy on the other can Israel also be democratic. But in any case, its Jewishness will always be given clear preference. This fact ensures an endless fight, because the Arabs will refuse to accept the sentence of inferiority that the state of Lieberman and Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman intends for them.
That is why these two cabinet ministers, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s tacit support, rejected the proposal that the loyalty oath be “in the spirit of the Declaration of Independence.” As they see it, the Declaration of Independence, which promises equality for all regardless of religion and national origin, is a destructive document whose real aim at the time was to placate the gentiles and win their help in the War of Independence. Today, in an Israel that is armed to the teeth, only enemies of the people would want to give legal status to a declaration that in any case few have ever taken seriously.
This is where the religious dimension naturally enters the picture. Just as it did among the revolutionary conservatives of the early 20th century and the neoconservative nationalists of our own day, religion plays a decisive role in crystallizing national solidarity and preserving society’s strength.
Religion is perceived, of course, as a system of social control without metaphysical content. Therefore, people who hate religion and its moral content can dwell contentedly alongside people like Neeman, who hopes one day to impose rabbinic law on Israel. From their perspective, the role of religion is to impose Jewish uniqueness and push universal principles beyond the pale of national existence.
In this way, discrimination and ethnic and religious inequality have become the norm here, and the process of Israel’s delegitimization has ratcheted up a level. And all of this is the work of Jewish hands.