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An Empty Loyalty Oath
Mon, 10/11/2010 - 20:00

Make no mistake, the wording advocated by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that would require non-Jewish immigrants to express loyalty to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state before receiving citizenship is more about internal political expediency than ideology. Same goes for the prime minister’s proposal to extend the building moratorium in the West Bank in exchange for a public declaration by the Palestinian Authority recognizing “Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.”

We empathize with Netanyahu’s delicate balancing act, trying to hold his right-wing coalition together while making progress on the Palestinian negotiations front. And he is quite adept at the process. But even Likud leaders of principle, like Dan Meridor, Benny Begin and Reuven Rivlin, oppose the loyalty oath because it is merely symbolic, ineffective on a practical level (people can mask their true sentiments when taking the oath) and further, can undermine Israel’s claim of being a democracy with equal rights for all.

Why give political ammunition to those who seek to delegitimize Israel, allowing them to make the case that the state’s democracy is narrowly defined, confined to certain segments of the population? And at a time when significant numbers of young American Jews are increasingly ambivalent about identifying with Israel, why create holes in the image and substance of a democratic society?

The country’s Declaration of Independence is sufficient in describing it as a Jewish state, and to press the point now is to risk alienating the few allies Israel has, creating another public relations black eye for itself.

Knesset speaker Rivlin, a self-described “fervent Zionist,” noted: “This law will not assist us as a society and a state. On the contrary, it could arm our enemies and opponents in the world in an effort to emphasize the trend for separatism or even racism within Israel.”

As for the prime minister’s call for the Palestinian Authority to recognize Israel as the Jewish homeland (already rejected, we note), it would be emotionally satisfying, historically accurate and more than deserved, particularly after Netanyahu has recognized the Palestinians’ right to self-determination. What about us? he asks, understandably.

But in the end Israel doesn’t need an empty utterance of recognition from Abbas. It needs the Palestinians, and the Arab world, to come to terms with the Jewish people’s legitimate right to self-determination in the land between the Jordan River and the Sea. That’s the crux of what has held up a peace agreement for decades, and it will continue unless and until Israel’s neighbors accept the reality of its existence. And only a durable, realistic peace will make it so — not mere words.

Benjamin Netanyahu, Citizenship, Israel

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Regarding the loyalty oath, I recall having to take an oath in the 1970's before receiving a teaching license in NYC and receiving a passport, that I would uphold the Constitution and not become party to any group seeking to overthrow the Republic. I can't certify my memory is accurate, but if it is, why accuse Israel of anything negative for applying the same idea to its social contract? I think its fair to administer such an oath to all citizens of Israel, especially when, incomprehensibly, the legitimacy of the state is still questioned.
Jews need to show loyalty to the principles of the Torah - justice, justice shalt thou pursue - and not to a State that delegitimizes its non-Jewish citizens. Jews do not owe ANY allegiance to the "State of Israel". Yes, we need to pray and fight for the protection of our Jewish brethren throughout the world - but the policies undertaken by the "State of Israel" may very well be doing more harm than good.
Ever since Palestinian Arabs developed a national consciousness, gradually the first quarter of the 20th century, they and their brethren in surrounding lands, have steadfastedly refused to accept that Jews, too, have claims to the land they call Israel, and have refused to accept that any non-Muslim would gain a foothold in the heartland of the Umma (never mind the distance to Mekka). That refusal underlays their repeated refusals to negotiated settlements. They refused the repeated partition plans, including that of the UN in 1947, refused recognition and peace after the 1949 armistice, despite assurances by some countries to the contrary, and refused every other opportunity that was presented. The only goal they accepted was total destruction of Israel, either at once or over time. Prime Minister Netanyahu's insistence on recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is not meaningless nor symbolic, but a request that the Arabs, both under the PA and those in the Arab League, finally put their destructive dreams to rest and make a clear statement that they have come to terms and agree with the presence of Jews, organized in their sovereign state, on that land. Such an admission is not enough for peace, but surely a definite precondition to any negotiations, because otherwise, the Palestinians are not negotiating in good faith, aiming for a piece process, to dismantle Israel one piece at a time, instead of a peace process. One surely hopes this time around the Arabs will finally desire peace and brotherhood, and accept Israel.
I fully agree Arie and I would go one further. Not just new citizens but all citizens in Israel who vote, including all members of the government, military and civil services need to re-confirm their loyalty to the Jewish and Democratic State of Israel. Stories of members of the military giving info to newspapers; showing photos on the Internet; police not doing their jobs, perhaps from fear of retaliation of non-citizens; rock throwers both Jewish and Arab; and members of the Knesset as anti-Israel, are just too frequent. A pledge of allegiance to the State of Israel should also be started in all schools of any denomination to be said every day. Children need to be taught loyalty early and young.