Netanyahu will do all he can to destroy Jewish-Arab alliances
The alliance between Palestinian citizens of Israel and the Jewish left has historically been viewed as a threat to the rule of the right. That’s why Netanyahu is doing everything he can to undermine it.
By Eli Bitan
The Israeli right knows exactly how to harm the left: by making its alliance with Palestinian citizens not only impossible but illegitimate, thus drawing away its power. The Jewish left, for its part, has historically done enough to undermine this alliance. But recent events have created new possibilities — and that’s why the right is coming out with guns blazing.
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This dynamic is currently playing out in Haifa, where in the recent municipal elections, newly-elected Mayor Einat Kalisch-Rotem appointed Raja Zaatry, a veteran activist from the Jewish-Arab Hadash party, to be her deputy. Kalisch-Rotem, who defeated incumbent Yona Yahav from the Labor Party, was elected with the support of the left and the ultra-Orthodox community. In early December, she announced her coalition, which excluded the right-wing Likud, and included the Haredi party, Hadash, and Meretz.
Then, on Dec. 4, Makor Rishon, the newspaper of Israel’s religious-nationalist community, published an article on Zaatry, which painted him as a supporter of BDS and a Hezbollah sympathizer who previously compared Israel to ISIS.
The furor came almost immediately. Interior Minister Aryeh Deri demanded Kalisch-Rotem walk back from her decision, while Prime Minister Netanyahu opened his weekly cabinet meeting by discussing Zaatry. Yair Lapid, who in the eyes of many Israelis has come to represent an opposition to the Netanyahu government, decried Zaatry’s appointment on Facebook.
On Wednesday afternoon, Netanyahu even phoned the mayor in an attempt to persuade her to change her mind. Kalisch-Rotem, however, made clear to him that her coalition agreement would remain unchanged. The controversy might appear like a tempest in a teapot, but it is evidently enough to concern both Netanyahu and Lapid. Kalisch-Rotem’s coalition, it turns out, is a threat to the right’s rule in Israel.