Understanding today’s Israeli political scene
To understand the Israeli political scene, you must understand how traumatized this country’s citizenry has been by decades of wars and terror attacks. When people in Israel say “left-wing” or “right-wing”, they are referring to the Arab-Israeli conflict, as the above video explains.
The failed Oslo Accords, which ultimately resulted in the outbreak of the 2nd Intifada, caused the gradual collapse of Israel’s political left-wing, which now holds barely more than 10% of the Knesset (13 out of 120 seats). To appreciate how dramatic a collapse this has been, you should know that Israel, which was founded in 1948, was led by the Labor party or its precursors until 1977.
To visualize this, check out this chart from Wikipedia:
Given this reality, if Prime Minister Netanyahu (Chairman of Israel’s largest right-wing party) had been willing to step down after Israel’s recent 4th round of elections (our 4th in two years!), a stable right-wing government would have easily formed without him because there are right-wing parties in the Knesset, which are simply refusing to serve under or with Netanyahu in particular. That’s why it’s ironic that the Prime Minister has been accusing those right-wing parties in the incoming government coalition of betraying the Israeli right.
Giving Netanyahu his due
Prime Minister Netanyahu has accomplished great things for Israel in his many years (~15 over two separate terms) as prime minister, not the least of which is maintaining the security of the State in a hostile region. This is generally undisputed and accepted even by his opponents from across the political spectrum.
If Netanyahu had graciously stepped down at any point during the past several years, his legacy would have been much less tarnished.
Netanyahu is now endangering Israel
Much of the anger and frustration that I want to express has been articulated by leading voices in the Israeli media all across the political spectrum, from left to right. That is largely why I don’t much feel like writing about this – it feels redundant and pointless to me.
The editor of the Times of Israel (a centrist Israeli media outlet) recently wrote an article titled: ‘Netanyahu was long appreciated for keeping Israel safe. Now he’s endangering us’, which you can read at your leisure.
[Netanyahu’s] behavior of late, during what may prove to be his last days as prime minister, has seen him fostering domestic division, and indeed hatred, with unprecedented vigor and bringing Israelis to the very brink of physical harm at our own hands.-David Horovitz (b. 1962), editor of the Times of Israel
I agree with every word of Horovitz’s article.
So fraught has the national climate become in these potential final days of Netanyahu’s rule that the head of [Israel’s Security Service], on Saturday resorted to issuing an unprecedented warning to all public figures — politicians, rabbis, educators and all — to tone down the discourse for fear that, a quarter of a century after prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated, major political violence is again just around the corner.-ibid.
By the way, this head of Israel’s Security Service who was appointed by Netanyahu, but the esteemed Prime Minister has remained undeterred by his warnings.
Top Israeli rabbis urge followers to ‘do everything’ to thwart new government
Netanyahu’s downfall is also the downfall of his primary political allies, namely the ultra-Orthodox parties and the extremist Zionist Orthodox party. The religious and political leaders of these parties have simply lost their minds.
I’ll first highlight the insanity of the religious leaders of the fundamentalist Zionist Orthodox party. For your reference, here is an article written by the staff of the Times of Israel: ‘Top rabbis urge followers to ‘do everything’ to thwart new government’.
Rabbi Druckman’s (the leading rabbi in the above article) self-righteous response to the unusual and important warning of the head of Israel’s Security Service was outrageous. Whoever writes that Israel’s prospective government “will do damage to the most fundamental matters of security, of our very existence, for it relies on supporters of terrorism” and concludes by issuing a call that “every effort must be made to ensure that this government does not arise” bears responsibility for those who will interpret the words “do everything” just as PM Rabin’s assassin did.
Anyone who knows what is happening among some of those fighting against the formation of the new government, anyone who hears their words and their violent yells, is not speaking the truth when they justify these rabbis’ call to the public and rejection of any responsibility for violent interpretations as merely “imagination.”
All the esteemed rabbis had to do was write “We must try and do everything to stand against the formation of the prospective government, but, God forbid, neither violently nor with calls to violence.”
The ultra-Orthodox political parties’ hateful press conference
If there was any doubt as to how unhinged the political leaders of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties are, their press conference this week provided ample proof of it. They, no less than anyone else, are inciting their followers to violence.
This is not a political discussion or disagreement; this is an attempt to use religion to target politicians. Its goal is to radicalize and alienate the Orthodox community to create a potential for strife and more division in society.–Jerusalem Post editorial
It’s as though these politicians have no sense of history. What is wrong with them?
Unfortunately, our history teaches us where this could lead. Baseless hatred has divided the Jewish people in the past and led to the destruction of our holy institutions and the destruction of our country.-ibid.
Of course, the incitement has not been limited to one press conference. It’s been splayed all over the ultra-Orthodox media outlets that are controlled by those same ultra-Orthodox political parties. Yesterday, the Sephardic ultra-Orthodox party’s daily featured the following headline: ‘A knife stabbed at the heart of the nation’.
Reading this top headline (and its design and color scheme) starkly recalls the Israel’s Security Service chief’s warning regarding the increasing danger of violence and bloodshed. Such pronouncements from religious leadership in Israel may all too easily provide unrestrained followers a green light to protect the nation and God from the “existential threat”, as happened before with PM Rabin’s assassin and others.
Anyone listening to the ultra-Orthodox politicians’ hysterical cries this week could see their mounting panic. At their press conference, they were practically tripping over one another in expressing ugly, demonizing, disgracing outbursts against designated prime minister Naftali Bennett and his coalition partners.
The other reason I don’t want to write about this
I’ve mentioned above that all of this has been covered extensively in the media. I’m not adding anything new whatsoever to the conversation in this blog post, and I am no subject matter expert on political violence and security.
But, really, the greater reason that I don’t want to be writing about this is that it’s difficult for me to do so calmly. I am so incredibly angry at these so-called leaders of ours. Now… I’m not actually going to do this, but I find myself fantasizing about recording myself screaming in burning outrage at these animals’ unfathomable disregard for human life and megalomaniacal arrogance.
Such a scream would summarize my feelings more effectively than the controlled words of this blog post.
I’m not going to do that. But feel free to imagine it.