Lost in the global bad news over the weekend was a bit of good news – Israel became a little more democratic. For the first time ever, the parties representing Arab Israelis have agreed to participate in a coalition government. The Blue and White Party, in its efforts to cobble together a majority in Israel’s legislature, the Knesset, had asked the Joint List of Arab-majority Parties to join its governing coalition. With these added voted, the Blue and White Party has a majority of votes and has been given the right to form a new government, with its leader as Prime Minister.
One of the big questions about Israel as a nation is: What is most important to its citizens – that it be a Jewish nation or a democratic nation? This question drives the debate over the two state solution – if enough Arab Israelis can be carved out into a separate country, Palestine, then Israel could be a (smaller) Jewish nation and a democratic nation. If everybody votes in one geographically larger nation, then pretty quickly there are more non-Jewish voters than Jewish voters – democratic but not Jewish.
Arab Israelis do participate in Israel’s elections and have been winning seats in the Legislature for many years. However for all practical purposes they didn’t get to be involved in the process of forming a government – they were not invited to participate in governing coalitions and didn’t ask to be included. Now, for the first time, Arab Israeli’s have been asked and have said yes to participating in a coalition government.
It’s not altogether sure if the coalition will hold or if the Blue and White Party will get to form a new government, but regardless this is a giant step in the growth of Israel’s democracy – for the first time, the votes of ALL Israeli’s, Jewish and Arab, will impact the selection of government. Not always perfectly, and sometimes steps back, but still freedom moves forward.