With the passage of the Nation-State Law this week, the Israeli government has offered a brief glimpse into the country’s future. The right is seeking to build a herrenvolk democracy across Greater Israel, a system in which only one ethnic group exercises political rights. The new Basic Law, which takes a step back on minority rights, was championed by the very people who want to annex the West Bank, home to millions of Palestinians. The seemingly contradictory impulses are telling about the current Israeli government’s view on democratic governance.

The problem with the legislation is not necessarily the idea that Israel wants to define itself as a Jewish state, although this is already stated de jure in an amendment to the Basic Law on the Knesset and reflected de facto in the Jewish iconography employed in the Israeli flag, state emblem, national anthem, the official status of the Hebrew language, and the use of the Hebrew calendar. Some parts of the law are deeply problematic, but others are merely redundant. But the kicker here is who passed the legislation: a majority of members of the sitting coalition oppose a two-state solution, many on ideological grounds, meaning that regardless of Palestinian cooperation or non-cooperation in negotiations these Israeli lawmakers actively oppose Palestinian sovereignty in an independent state of their own. The new Basic Law’s mention of a “unified Jerusalem” is a clear recognition of its sponsors’ territorial agenda, and the legislation should be understood in this context.

Although the bill – including its previous iterations – was conceived and sponsored by Avi Dichter, of Likud’s more center-right wing, the Nation-State Law eventually became a project of the entire coalition, including Bayit Yehudi and the national-religious camp within Likud. It is especially curious that those most committed to annexing the West Bank in whole or in part, which would enlarge Israel’s Palestinian population, are also the most committed to rolling back the rights of Israel’s biggest minority. The new Basic Law downgrades the Arabic language from its 70-year official status (technically co-equal with Hebrew) to an ill-defined “special language.” Hebrew was already the dominant language in practice, so making it the solitary official language at the expense of Arabic serves no real purpose other than to provoke Arab citizens of Israel and remind them that they are second class.

Then there are the more controversial aspects, such as the endorsement of segregated communities. Under intense criticism (including from some members of the coalition), this was watered down to a clause encouraging “Jewish settlement” (whether this will be confined within the Green Line is left open to interpretation, but one can make an educated guess). Such a compromise is cold comfort. The takeaway is not that Benjamin Netanyahu and his government caved under pressure but that they had no compunctions about the idea of segregation, a concept right-wing lawmakers could revisit in the future if they have sufficient votes. When and if they do, the Knesset may be responsible for a greater population of West Bank Palestinians who have been annexed to Israel, so the legal implications of such redlining will be more broadly felt.

The Nation-State Law’s passage came shortly after the Knesset pushed through another piece of legislation which limits Palestinian access to Israel’s Supreme Court. Previously, the Supreme Court was the court of first instance for Palestinians in the occupied territories, meaning it had primary jurisdiction over their petitions. For Israeli citizens, petitions start in local district courts and can make their way up to the Supreme Court. On its surface, this would seem only fair, but Palestinians’ access to the Supreme Court was only one small area in which they had a leg up over Israeli citizens, including settlers. In every other respect: their statelessness, restrictions on freedom of movement and travel, and limits on building permits, Palestinians lag behind their Israeli neighbors. And this Knesset coalition is not one that was about to confer Palestinians with the benefits of citizenship, nor grant them a state of their own.

Upsetting as it is, none of this should come as a surprise given the annexationist camp’s political program, which includes full incorporation of Area C of the West Bank (60 percent of the territory) and perpetual sub-state autonomy for the remaining 40 percent (with no citizenship conferred on the area’s roughly two-million residents).

As the Israeli government doubles down on discriminatory policies, the orientation of the Palestinian national movement will change. Faced with a reality in which Israeli governments both actively oppose a two-state compromise and limit Palestinian liberties, West Bank residents may organize around civil rights rather than independent statehood. That eventuality, not the Nation-State Law, will be the true reckoning for Israel’s status as a Jewish and democratic state.

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