The Israeli loyalty oath is an obstacle to peace in the Middle East

22 décembre 2010
Jean-Yves Camus - The Malta Independent
The mistake is that non-Jewish Israelis, especially the Arab citizens, see this as another proof that the Arabs are not recognised as a full component of the Israeli nation. The loyalty oath sparked outrage among the Arab population and it will alienate it further from the State, eventually nurturing the Islamist propaganda and the armed militant groups that are trying to recruit among them.

It is also giving a bad image of Israel abroad at a time when this country is starting to have its arguments heard in the Mavi Marmara affair and in its case against Iran. Obviously, the Israeli government is now walking in the steps of the part of the Israeli public opinion who thinks: “if everybody hates us, then let’s go our way and forget about the consequences”. From the Israeli point of view this kind of attitude may be worth following when the vital interests of the country are at stake. It is not in this case, because the loyalty oath will have to be sworn by a very limited number of individuals and will not even give proof of the Arab Israeli’s faithfulness to the State, unless the oath is extended to them, as is asked by the radical Right.

Now here comes the nonsense: the Israeli cabinet is asking non-Jewish immigrants to pledge allegiance to the Jewish character of the State, while hundreds of thousands of Orthodox Jews all across the country and many Orthodox immigrants as well, would refuse to take this oath. As an observant Jew, I am quite puzzled by the fact that the most vocal supporters of the oath are secular politicians such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, who are acting in the name of the secular Zionist ideology, not in that of the Jewish religious law.

The oath is even more nonsensical when one sees that the law of the State and the opinion of Orthodox Jewry as to who is a Jew do not coincide. This topic has been a contentious one since the inception of the Israeli State in 1948. Furthermore, many ultra-orthodox Jews who emigrate to Israel (and who will not have to take this oath) would certainly agree to pledge loyalty to a Jewish State, but they would as surely refuse to accept the idea of democracy, which is contrary to their belief that the Torah and their Rabbis are the only valid sources for ruling what is permitted and what is not, both in personal and in collective matters.

Finally in the oath, the word “democratic” is at least as important as the word “Jewish”. In a democratic country, it is perfectly acceptable to ask foreigners who want to acquire citizenship to pledge an oath of allegiance. However in this case, all foreigners are to be imposed the same requirements, and the values one has to pledge allegiance to have to be shared by the whole population, regardless of ethnicity and religion.

This is clearly not the case here. Therefore, as the Kadima opposition party pointed out, the oath is needlessly divisive. Some observers have said that it is Netanyahu’s bargaining conditions to obtain a freeze of the settlements from the hardliners in his own camp. As new outposts are still being created in the West Bank, it will most probably be a double victory for the hawks within the Likud and its allies: they will have the loyalty oath legislation pass the Knesset while the settlers will continue to jeopardise the peace process.
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