Judaization of Israel may trigger Intifada
The nationality law would identify Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people and delist Arabic as an official language of the state. Justice Minister Tzipi Livni said that she and her party, which is a member of the coalition, would oppose the law if it comes to a vote. Furthermore, she and other coalition partners threatened to leave the government if the law is passed. Opponents of the proposed bill say that it discriminates against Israel’s Arab minority and paves the way for Jewish religious law to supplant democratic practices.
Abbas has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He recently said that US mediation efforts to restart peace negotiations have failed and that the Palestinians would now seek UN intervention. On Saturday, Arab foreign ministers meeting in Cairo backed a Palestinian proposal to formally present a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council that will set a timeframe for the creation of a Palestinian state. The draft, which will be presented by Security Council member Jordan in the coming days, would set 2016 as a deadline to end Israeli occupation. President Abbas said that he had asked the US to help in drafting the proposal. Washington will almost certainly veto the draft resolution. Jordan’s King Abdallah, who is traveling to the US this week to meet President Barack Obama, had insisted recently that the Palestinian question remains the core of Middle East instability.
The Arab move in the UN constitutes a preemptive reply to Netanyahu’s determination to pass the nationality bill, which in the view of many will formally bring the prospect of a negotiated peace deal to a dismal end. It will force the Palestinian president to carry out threats to end security coordination with Israel, sign international treaties, including one that allows them to join the International Criminal Court (ICC), and eventually dissolve the PA.
On the Israeli side, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, a major partner in the coalition government, revealed last week that he was working on a “regional peace plan” that proposes land and people swap. In anticipation of early elections, he proposed that Arab citizens of Israel be offered financial incentives to leave the country and relocate to a future Palestinian state. “Those (Israeli Arabs) who decide that their identity is Palestinian will be able to forfeit their Israeli citizenship and move and become citizens of the future Palestinian state,” he declared.
The passing of the proposed bill in Knesset will unleash a wave of anti-Arab sentiments in Israel. It will increase tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in East Jerusalem and encourage Jewish extremists to challenge Muslim authority over Al-Aqsa mosque and may hasten the eruption of a Palestinian Intifada in the West Bank. But most importantly it will allow Israel to pass additional discriminatory laws against its Arab citizens. The threat of “transfer” of Arabs from their homes in Israel will become a reality, especially as Israeli voters move further to the extreme right.
In return Netanyahu has refused to budge on final status issues such as negotiating the fate of East Jerusalem, which the Palestinians want as their capital, dismantling West Bank settlements and recognizing the right of return for refugees. Passing the nationality law will close the door on the latter issue forever.
Netanyahu and his right-wing partners are trying to preempt attempts to force Israel into a negotiated settlement. The latest Arab decision to go to the UN Security Council coincided with French declaration that it was seeking to hold a peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius told parliamentarians, who are debating a proposal to recognize a Palestinian state, that France was urging the international community to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict within two years. He added that Paris was working with its UN partners “to adopt a Security Council resolution to re-launch and conclude talks.” It is not clear if the French move implies that Paris will support the Arab draft resolution.
A flurry of diplomatic activities has already begun. The pressure is now on Washington, which is yet to respond to its European partners and Arab allies. The international mood is favorable to the Palestinian cause, especially in Europe, and if the United States decides to veto the latest effort without suggesting a realistic alternative it will be sending a wrong message in all directions. Most importantly it will be encouraging Israel’s right-wing to adopt additional discriminatory and unilateral policies thus pushing all parties to an inevitable bloody confrontation.
— Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.
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