Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister Benny Gantz speak during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 28 2020. Picture: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, alternate Prime Minister and Defence Minister Benny Gantz speak during the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem June 28 2020. Picture: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

During campaigning for elections in April 2019, September 2019 and March 2020 it seemed all red lines were crossed, and lying in public was no longer taboo. We also witnessed racism at its worst.

One candidate who considered working with the Joint List — the only representative of the Arab minority in the Knesset — was immediately accused of treason. Another candidate wondered in a radio interview if one of his competitors, of Russian origin, could speak Hebrew. He later said immigrants from the former Soviet Union “do not want to be Jewish”.

After the coronavirus pushed Likud and Blue and White into a unity government, their coalition agreement provided that a “reconciliation cabinet” would be formed. The agreement states that the “immediate establishment of an emergency unity government is a necessity for the good of Israel ... [and that a] reconciliation cabinet will act to heal the divisions within the Israeli society”.

The idea of forming such a cabinet seems groundbreaking; after years of division and hate between groups in Israeli society, finally our representatives want to take responsibility and stop the hate. They want to act against it instead of creating it. Yet the media reported last week that this cabinet, which has yet to convene since the government was established more than a month ago, will discuss issues relating to religion and state. Really? While matters of religion and state are a hot and important topic and there are many problems that require a solution — public transportation, conversion, civil marriage — is this where we should start our national reconciliation?

The Western world is engaged in a battle against racism. We see that with the toppling of statues in the US, the UK and beyond. In Israel, though, it seems sometimes that we are moving backwards. Forming a reconciliation cabinet is a blessed move. Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazim and Mizrachim, religious and secular, left and right — all need to come together to find a way to unite and work to solve our nation’s problems as one. /Jerusalem, June 27

The Jerusalem Post