Minister of Education Rafi Peretz has been through a tough political week. He learned, perhaps for the first time, what public exposure is, how he should prepare for an interview, and the significance of making unacceptable statements. The most important lesson that the minister of education learned is that when you are senior government minister, every word you utter counts, every nuance is important, and what you say resounds in every section of society, and even around the world.
Channel 12's Dana Weiss made several interesting headlines through her interview with Peretz, which she said lasted three hours and was cut to just a few screen minutes.
One statement by Peretz failed to make waves. "I want to impose Israeli sovereignty on all of Judea and Samaria," Peretz told Weiss. "If it happens in stages, I don’t mind - I want it to happen. This is our land." Asked about the rights of the Palestinians living in Judea and Samaria, he responded: "We'll take care of all their needs, we'll take care that it will be good for them, but they will have no political decision-making capability. There will be no right to vote at the national political level."
Peretz sketches the following vision for our country: The area of the State of Israel is 22,000 square kilometers; the area of Judea and Samaria is 5,790 square kilometers; altogether, 27,790 square kilometers, home to some 11 million people. Of these, 8.3 million will be people with full citizenship, including the right to vote for the Knesset; 400,000 will be residents of East Jerusalem with the right to vote for the Jerusalem Municipality only, and no right to vote for the Knesset; and another 2.3 million people with no voting rights other than in their localities.
Peretz thus proposes a non-democratic future for our country. Global leaders who have been asked about this kind of possibility, such as former US Secretary of State John Kerry, have called it a slide into apartheid.
Since Peretz did not mention in the interview any restrictions on the movement of these new sub-citizens, they will presumably be able to leave Nablus or Hebron and find a place to live in Haifa, Eilat or Nazareth. Wherever they live, they will be different from their Jewish neighbors and from those of their Arab neighbors who are longstanding citizens. Those 8.3 million will have the right to vote, but the residents of the annexed Judea and Samaria will not have the same right.
Does anyone in Israel think this can work? The current political reality, including the incumbent in the White House, who is ready to go along with any Israeli request, makes many people think it can. Truly. The reality of 400,000 people living in East Jerusalem without the right to vote for the Israeli legislature has persisted for more than 50 years. What's the difference? The difference is only in the number of people. A jump from 400,000 people to 2.3 million people, that's all.
If so, what was new in what Peretz had to say? The difference is in the interview. Previous leaders on the Israeli right have been cautious about saying anything so explicit. They concealed their views and their plans. Then along comes Peretz, an inexperienced politician, and puts on the table the real plan for complete labelling of two population groups with separate citizenship rights.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 18, 2019
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