In Its Essence, Israel’s Nation-State Law Is about Responsibility

Aug. 10 2018

A professor emeritus of philosophy at Tel Aviv University, and the author of the codes of ethics used by Israel’s Ministry of Defense and the IDF, Asa Kasher has been critical of the present form of the Basic Law passed by the Knesset last month. In particular, he argues that the law “should have stated how it is fully compatible with the principles of democracy, including the equal protection of human dignity and rights”—but, he adds, despite the hysterical arguments of some of its opponents, the law is by no means incompatible with those principles. Kasher in fact finds its underlying purpose praiseworthy, and explains why:

Individually, the state [of Israel] belongs to [its Jewish and non-Jewish citizens] to exactly the same extent. Collectively, however, there is a difference. In Israel, Jews exercise their right to self-determination, [as the new law affirms]. An Israeli Arab desiring Palestinian self-determination will see this collective right implemented when [a Palestinian state] is established. Nothing in his status as an Israeli citizen would change. . . .

Why should there be nation-states in the first place? Rootless cosmopolitanism has not shifted the attitude of millions who want to express their deep ethnic and cultural affiliations through statehood. Naturally, we associate Finland with the Finns, Greece with the Greeks, and Israel with the Jews. . . .

Why should there be a Jewish state rather than a political entity of another nature? Why should the Jews be treated differently from the Finns and the Greeks? There is a national minority of Arabs in Israel, indeed, but there is also a national minority of Swedes in Finland. Is there a difference between Arabs as a minority and Swedes as a minority? Denying rights to Jews that are granted to others is, pace Jeremy Corbyn, yet another form of anti-Semitism. . . .

Is the new law mainly symbolic, or does it have practical consequences? The new law does have practical consequences. I take one word in its text to be its conceptual and moral essence: responsibility. Greece shoulders responsibility for the fate of its citizens, and also for the fate of Greeks everywhere, for example in Cyprus. As the Jewish nation-state, Israel is responsible for the existence, security, and wellbeing of all of its citizens, and also for the fate of the Jews wherever they are.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel and the Diaspora, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli politics

In Gaza, Israel Must Try to Restore Deterrence While Avoiding War

Oct. 22 2018

Early Wednesday morning, a rocket fired from Gaza landed in the city of Beersheba, striking the courtyard of a home. (The woman who lived there, and her three children, barely escaped.) Israel responded swiftly with airstrikes, and the IDF reported that this weekend was the quietest along the Gaza separation fence since March 30, when the weekly riots there began. Yet some 10,000 Palestinians still gathered at the border, burning tires and throwing stones, grenades, and makeshift explosives at Israeli soldiers on the other side. Meanwhile, writes Eran Lerman, Jerusalem faces a difficult decision about how to proceed:

The smaller terrorist organizations in Gaza—Islamic Jihad, which operates as a satellite of Iran, and radical Sunni groups inspired by Islamic State—are the primary ones that want to ratchet up the violence into a full-scale war. For them, a major war in Gaza could be an opportunity to build themselves up on the ruins of Hamas. It also looks as if Iran, too, has an interest in escalating the situation in Gaza and pulling Israel into a war that will detract from its ability to focus on its main defense activity right now: keeping Iran from digging down in Syria.

The third player consistently working to worsen the situation in Gaza and torpedo Egypt’s efforts to broker a cease-fire is the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas, for whom—as he once said in Jenin— “the worse things are, the better.” . . .

All of these considerations are counterbalanced, paradoxically, by Hamas’s interest in continuing to dictate the terms of any cease-fire with Israel while refraining from a war, which the Hamas leadership knows would be self-destructive. Its moves to escalate the conflict—arson balloons, breaches of the border fence—have been intentionally selected as ways of taking things to the brink without toppling over into the abyss. . . .

And Israel? A harsh, well-defined blow is vital for it to maintain its mechanism of deterrence. A missile hitting Beersheba is not a trivial occurrence. However, as far as possible, and given the broader considerations of the regional balance of power as well as Israel’s fundamental interest in avoiding a ground war, it would be best to make the most of Egypt’s mediation.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Palestinian Authority