Why the 75th anniversary of Israel’s first elections matters

Israeli democracy reaches a symbolic milestone.

By Moshe Phillips

Inherent in the recent outrageous charges that Israel has an apartheid system, or is committing genocide is that somehow Israel is not a true democracy while nothing could be further from the truth.

This January 25th is the 75th anniversary of Israel’s first open and free elections for its national legislature, the Knesset.

Contrast that with the last time Palestinian Arabs had elections for their parliament—it was in 2006.

And in 2006 the Hamas terrorist organization overwhelmingly won those elections.

As a result of the Hamas win the Palestinian Authority’s presidential elections were postponed indefinitely and Mahmoud Abbas, elected in 2005, has never allowed elections again.

In its first 75 years Israel has had 25 national elections. Israel’s 1949 elections took place eight months after the Jewish State declared its independence and a month before Israel and Egypt signed its armistice agreement.

In other words Israel was still at war when they held their first elections.

Israel’s commitment to free elections was without a doubt extremely important to Israel’s founding fathers otherwise they would not have held elections while a war was ongoing.

Multiple parties led by Arabs participated in this initial Israeli election. Israel has always been an extremely vibrant democracy.

Its politicians and jurists, as well as everyday Israelis, have gone to great lengths to ensure that anti-democratic ideas are marginalized while also protecting civil rights at the same time. None of the Arab nations that have fought wars against Israel have shown any interest in regular, free elections like the ones we have in the United States. Not one.

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And this is where Antony Blinken comes in.

Blinken met with Mahmoud Abbas on January 10 in Ramallah where the Palestinian Authority has its headquarters.

Following the meeting the New York Times reported that “Mr. Blinken said he had spoken with Mr. Abbas about the need to make changes to the Palestinian Authority to make it more effective as a governing organization. He said Mr. Abbas was “committed” to that.”

What kind of new quasi-government does Blinken think Abbas is committed to transforming the Palestinian Authority into?

Based on all evidence any impartial observer would have to say the Palestinian Authority will continue to be both a horrifically violent and a stridently undemocratic one. There is no argument to support otherwise.

Let’s remember, if there is one person who is more responsible than any other for sponsoring terrorist attacks in Judea and Samaria (what the UN and mainstream media still insist on calling the West Bank) it’s Abbas. And he has no intention of moving aside.

There is also no reason to be optimistic that any successor that Abbas would select from his underlings would have any intention to act any differently than he ever has.

—Abbas’s Palestinian Authority (PA) constantly exhorts the Arab Palestinian Authority masses to attack Jews.

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For example, on October 21, 2023 the head of the Nablus branch of Fatah—which is the largest faction of the PA and happens to also be chaired by Abbas—announced, “We are united and aiming our bullets at the occupier and at the settlers.”

And on October 23, the Bethlehem and Tulkarm branches of Fatah issued a proclamation to “Sons of the West Bank,” urging, “Call out ‘Allahu Akbar,’ this is a call of mobilization to all those who have a weapon; shame and disgrace on everyone who abandons the struggle.”

(Thank you to Palestinian Media Watch for the translations.)

—The PA’s news media and schools glorify “extremists who attack Jewish civilians.” On October 10, official PA Television broadcast a declaration by the head of the Tulkarm branch of Fatah, calling the October 7 pogrom “a source of pride, heroism, and honor for the Palestinian people.

—The PA pays salaries to Palestinian Arab “extremists who attack Jewish civilians,” and pays monetary rewards to their families. It also pays bonuses that

—The PA shelters “extremists who attack civilians,” and has refused Israel’s dozens of requests to extradite them.

—The PA’s security forces frequently hire “extremists who attack civilians.” On August 6, 2023, the Fatah Commission of Information and Culture posted on its Facebook page the names and photos of 30 members of the PA security forces whom it considers “Martyrs” because they died while carrying out terrorist attacks.

—The PA names schools, streets, and parks after “extremists who attack Jewish civilians,” so that the Palestinian Arab public will view them as heroes who deserve to be praised and honored.

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—The PA runs hundreds of summer camps where young Arabs are given military training and perform skits about kidnapping Israelis. This past summer, Fatah Central Committee secretary Jibril Rajoub boasted on his Facebook page that the PA ran 648 such camps, in which 65,000 boys and girls took part. PA Television reported on July 16, 2023 that the camps “bear the names of Martyrs” who “watered the land of the homeland with [their] blood, for freedom and liberation from the occupation.”

—The PA uses its network of salaried imams in mosques to spread a message of encouraging “extremists who attack civilians.” On October 18, the PA’s Ministry of Religious Affairs issued a directive to all mosques in its territories to include in their Friday sermons the Islamist teaching that redemption “will not come until the Muslims fight the Jews and kill them.”

So if Blinken expects Mahmoud Abbas to change his ways and reform his Palestinian Authority, where’s he finding his evidence to match his wild and dangerous optimism? There’s only ever been one true democracy in history between “from the River to the Sea” and that’s the State of Israel.

 

Moshe Phillips is a commentator on Jewish affairs whose writings appear regularly in the American and Israeli press.

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