Topics: Election

A Secular-Only Unity Government for Israel?

Just hours before the polls open, Israeli politicians are playing on the most divisive issues

A Secular-Only Unity Government for Israel?
Tomer Neuberg/FLASH90

Just days before the election, the opposition “Blue and White” party announced its new promise to the Israeli public – a national unity government that excludes all religious parties, including right-wing national-religious factions. 

In so doing, Blue and White is hoping to cash in on the populist anti-religious campaign that has proved very lucrative for Avigdor Liberman, whose party Yisrael Beiteinu only narrowly passed the electoral threshold in the previous election. Once Liberman began his anti-religious sloganeering, polls showed that he might very well double his representation in the Knesset when Israelis cast their ballots on Tuesday.

An Israeli government devoid of any religious representation should be an offensive notion. It goes without saying that if the Mizrachi-dominated Shas party called to bar Ashkenazi Jews from the government, or if the leftist Meretz demanded a coalition made up only of Ashkenazi Jews they would be considered horribly racist. 

But, to no one’s surprise, Blue and White’s proposal to exclude religious parties seems totally acceptable in the eyes of many to the center-left of the political spectrum.

This idea is even more disturbing considering the anti-exclusion campaign that has been going on for months on end. Just a few short weeks ago, a group of secular women appealed to the courts in an effort to stop a religious public event where, according to Orthodox ethical codes, men and women were to be to be separated by some sort of barrier. Now, the very same people are speaking in favor of exclusion.

This last-minute campaign is perhaps the most divisive ever. It speaks directly to the issue that divides Israelis more than any other, including security and social equality. 

If Blue and White emerges victorious tomorrow it will be because, as popular journalist Amit Segal observed, “without us noticing, this election transitioned from yes-Bibi/no-Bibi to Jews vs. Israelis.” 

What Segal meant is that Israeli society is most deeply divided between those who support a democratic state, and those who support a Jewish democratic state. Blue and White’s new direction, which mimics that of the furthest leftists, suggests that Segal’s observation is correct, and that a government headed by this party could very well put Israel on a path to abandoning its Jewish identity.

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