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April 19, 2019 10:44 am

‘The Palestinians Led to the Downfall of the Left,’ Says Former Israeli Education Minister

avatar by Israel Hayom /

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leads a weekly Sunday cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on Dec. 9, 2018. Photo: Marc Israel Sellem / Pool. –  “Last week we received more proof that there is strong movement [in Israel] toward the extreme right, and legitimization of [Rabbi Meir] Kahane’s ideas. That’s a disaster that will worsen if those who voice support for Kahanism are given important portfolios like education or justice,” said legal scholar and former Israeli Education Minister Amnon Rubinstein, adding that for him, National Union Knesset member Bezalel Smotrich being named education minister would be “a catastrophe.”

“Even now, the Education Ministry is a religious ministry. Public education is discriminated against, primarily when it comes to budgeting. There isn’t one minister or one MK in the coalition who took action to defend public education. The ministry’s curriculum is completely Orthodox Judaism. High school students complete their schooling without knowing that there are other, more important streams,” he said.

Rubinstein argued that while the secular are the majority in Israel, “politically, the secular are in the minority. They have nearly no influence, and there is no one who defends their lifestyle. I don’t remember the last law, or bill, that was designed to benefit the secular population.”

Discussing the results of last week’s election, Rubinstein said he finds it difficult to believe that the Labor Party will ever rebound from such a severe defeat.

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“The Palestinians contributed to the downfall of the left. The practical basis—which I support—of land for peace has failed,” he said.

Rubinstein was one of the founders of the Meretz Party and praised it as “the only party in which Jews and Arabs work together, in an egalitarian manner. They are the only ones who fight for the secular public with all their might, in part through their consistent demand to separate religion and state. However, I have reservations about the automatic position that Israel is always at fault. Meretz is too radical on matters of security and peace, and should put more emphasis on patriotism.”

The former minister said the Likud “calls itself a national, liberal movement, but it’s not liberal in the slightest. ‘Anti-liberal’ would be the correct term for it. The acceptance of or agreement that women should not pray at the Western Wall, in their own way and according to their own beliefs, the inequality women face in the military, repeated remarks rejecting Reform Judaism, etc.”

“I haven’t seen a single Likud bill that actually promotes equal rights,” he added.

“The schisms in the Israeli public have grown immensely, and the government and the prime minister have widened those schisms—partly by inciting against anyone who thinks differently than [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu. It’s caused a lot of Israelis to despair [with regard to] politics.”

According to Rubinstein, the right-wing government is leading processes that “cause a major conflict and alienation between us [Israelis] and North American Jewry, who are important to Israel. Irresponsibly, we accept that growing alienation, which is the result of hostility toward the demands of a minority.”

“I take comfort in one thing: the attempt by the New Right Party to bring down a failed legal system. But the threat still exists. Many people in the Likud and the religious parties are hostile to the Supreme Court and want to weaken it, or turn judges into representatives of politicians,” he said.

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