The Palestinians’ deteriorating conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip makes even long-term optimism difficult
. Neither a one-liberal-state nor two-state resolution seems in the offing because (if for no other reason) either would seem to spell political suicide for any foreseeable Israeli government. The one-staters have a good argument against the two-staters and vice versa. Would it really be easier for an Israeli prime minister to evict 400,000 Israeli Jews from the West Bank (leaving aside the more than 200,000 in formally annexed East Jerusalem) than it would be to agree to one secular democratic state in which non-Jews would soon outnumber Jews if they don’t already? I don’t see it.
Pessimism is reinforced by the recently passed Nation-State law, according to which the Knesset made fully de jure what had long been true de facto: that Israel belongs to Jewish people only (whether religious believers or not and wherever in the world they may currently live) and that the minority of non-Jewish Israelis should think of themselves as little more than guests living there at the pleasure of the Jewish supermajority.
“The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people,” the law states. Another part says, “The state will be open for Jewish immigration and the ingathering of exiles.” Also: “The state shall act within the Diaspora to strengthen the affinity between the state and members of the Jewish people.” And: “The state views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation.”
And we thought laws that specified religious, ethnic, national, or racial groups for special treatment went the way of the dodo bird, at least in western-oriented countries. Israel is officially a throwback to an unenlightened age.
To add insult to injury, Arabic, the language of 20 percent of the population, was demoted from an “official” language to one having only a “special status.”
If most of this was already the reigning state of affairs, why was the law passed? It was passed to constrain Israel’s Supreme Court. Gone is the wiggle room that the sometimes independent-minded court once had.
The law is now part of Israel’s Basic Law, which functions more or less like a constitution. The new law says, “This Basic Law shall not be amended, unless by another Basic Law passed by a majority of Knesset members.” In other words, there’s no chance in hell of changing it unless Israel’s ruling elite want it changed. Modified from S. Richman