Until the Arab Parties Abandon Their Hatred of Israel, They Don’t Belong in the Government

On Sunday, thanks in part to the recommendations of the Knesset’s Arab bloc, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin tasked Benny Gantz, the leader of the centrist Blue and White party, with forming a new government. While Arab parties have sat in the Knesset for years, they have never taken part in a governing coalition. Efraim Karsh and Gershon Hacohen argue that Arab parliamentarians’ rejection of Israel as a Jewish state, and support for its enemies, should disqualify them from doing so:

[W]hen in 1965 the Central Elections Committee disqualified the Arab Socialist list, . . . which rejected Israel’s very existence, from running for the Knesset, the Supreme Court ratified that measure under the doctrine of “defensive democracy.”

Since then, and especially after the launch of the Oslo “peace process” in 1993, Israel’s Arab parties have undergone massive radicalization. Ignoring legislation forbidding unauthorized visits by Israelis to enemy states, Azmi Bishara, the founding leader of the ultranationalist Balad party (with seats in the Israeli parliament since 1999), traveled to Damascus to commemorate the death of Hafez al-Assad, one of Israel’s most implacable enemies, from where he implored the Arab states to enable anti-Israel “resistance activities,” expressed admiration for Hizballah, and urged Israeli Arabs to celebrate the terrorist organization’s achievements and internalize its operational lessons.

His Knesset peer Ahmad Tibi was beside himself with joy on meeting the deceased [Syrian] tyrant’s son, Bashar al-Assad in January 2009. . . . The following year, Tibi traveled to Libya with a delegation of Israeli Arab parliamentarians to meet the long-reigning (and soon-to-be-deposed) dictator Muammar Qaddafi, whom he lauded as “king of the Arabs.” By this time, open calls for Israel’s destruction [by Arab parliamentarians] had substituted for the 1990s’ euphemistic advocacy of this goal.

This steady ultranationalist surge was met by corresponding reluctance by the legal system to enforce the legislation designed to ensure Israel’s Jewish character. Before the February 2009 and April 2019 elections, for instance, the Supreme Court overturned the Central Elections Committee’s disqualification of Balad and vetoed the disqualification of Arab members of Knesset who have expressed “support for armed struggle, by a hostile state or a terrorist organization, against the state of Israel”—the legal threshold for disqualification. [Recently], Israeli Arab politicians’ rejection of Israel’s Jewish nature has become ever more pronounced.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Hafez al-Assad, Israeli Arabs, Israeli politics, Knesset

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy