Beyond the Cusp

February 9, 2014

Israel as the State of the Jewish People

One of the major hurdles that are causing an impasse in the peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority has been the demand for the Palestinians to recognize Israel as the State for the Jewish People. Under Islamic law, Sharia, any land that was once under Muslim rule must never fall under other than Muslim rule and if it should then forcing a reversion back under Muslim rule becomes an imperative for the entirety of Islam. But this tenet of Islam is only the excuse behind the Palestinian refusal to recognize Israel as the Jewish State; their real motivations are simply the destruction of Israel as being Jewish and that is the driving force behind their refusal. The refusal by the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish nature of Israel is actually a secondary problem facing those who insist that Israel be defined as a democratic Jewish state. Their major difficulty is the secular Jews who do not view Israel as Jewish but simply desire that Israel be defined as a multiethnic pluralistic democratic state and to simply ignore any reference to the Jewishness of the majority of the citizens of Israel. Many of these Jews are simply secularists who happen to have been born of Jewish parents but who do not follow the commandments and traditions of the Jewish faith to a greater degree.

                          

This situation is far more than just a bothersome and tedious argument between the religious and/or Zionist sectors of Israeli society with the secular, post-Zionist sector of Israeli society; it is a struggle for the heart and soul of Israel as to whether or not it will be justifiably defined as the Jewish State. This dispute over how to define the nation of Israel has become more heated over the last couple of decades as more and more Israeli Jews are returning to their faith and roots and the study of Torah has become more mainstream. The original large majority held by the secular and often socialist Zionists who held the controlling hand in the formation of the governance after Israel was founded in 1948 has seen their majority dwindle away until they are facing the fact that Israel has become increasingly religious and Zionist. This is taken as a direct threat to the comfort of those who purport that the government should be purely secular and that in order for Israel to be considered a partner in what they see as the civilized world, they hold dearly to the principle that there must be a separation of the state from any religious influences. Unfortunately, their belief that there should be no religious influence on the government does not hold in the other direction, they also hold the opinion that the state should have the final say and ability to overrule and control the functions of religion within the society. Needless to say, they see absolutely no discrepancies in holding these two opposing views as they view religious observance and religious influences on the nation and the society as a detrimental effect fraught with superstitions and antiquated ideas and ideals. Their actions reflect a trepidation that the growing influence of religious ideas and ideals into Israeli society might rub off on them and corrupt their pure core concepts of good governance and its need to be completely removed and independent of the evil influences of religious principles, especially Jewish religious principles, as their fear is that the society will favor Jews over non-Jewish citizens. Much of this unwarranted fear stems from their lack of understanding of Jewish laws, traditions and the importance it places on equal treatment with an emphasis on equality before the law.

 

Any competent and complete study of Jewish law, Torah, reveals commandments that Jewish society is required to treat the stranger no differently that it treats another Jew. The stranger amongst the Jewish People has the same rights and actually a few additional rights stemming from not having to fulfill certain religious duties which a Jew is expected to fulfill. The stranger has every secular right that a Jew is allowed and is to be treated fairly by the courts, allowed security in their possessions, respect given their religious practices providing such does not cause Jews to break any commandments or violate the Noahic Code, and generally see no difference in any legal pursuit or action. These secularists also refuse to acknowledge that it was from Jewish societal laws that much of modern western civilized laws are based. This is even more true when one refers to the founding basis of the United States and its laws of governance and rights granted the people. It is also the basis for why in the United States any legal immigrant has near equal rights and responsibilities as an American citizen enjoys or is obligated. The ideas and ideals of a limited government comes from Torah which insists that any King of the Jewish People is forbidden from acquiring great wealth, horses, cattle, lands or other trappings of advantage or benefit over the peoples that they rule. Needless to say, these laws worked as well as the United States Constitution has limited the rise and overpowering of the Federal Government trampling over the individual States’ rights and powers. Any ruler of the Jewish People is also directed to spend inordinate amounts of time studying Torah so that they will be familiar with its restrictions and follow the law in an exemplary manner as an example for the population to also act according to Torah and keep the commandments. The secularists by attempting to reduce, if not eliminate, any religious influence over Israeli governance and also impede those who have strong religious beliefs from attaining high office, especially in the judiciary, are actually going against Torah and its guidelines of equality and acceptance of others who have different beliefs.

 

There have been some notable instances recently which exemplify this struggle for the heart and soul of Israel. Not the least has been the arguments over how to include the Haredi in the mandatory induction of youth into the IDF or National Service. Despite his campaigning as a pro-Zionist, pro-settler and renunciation of his father’s animosity of the religious, Yair Lapid has recently made numerous statements of positions which are diametrically opposed to his campaign promises. Just as his father before him, Yair Lapid has shown contempt for the Haredi and spoken out against dedicated Torah study as an unnecessary and wasteful endeavor which has little place or service of the nation of Israel. His most recent rant declared that his Yesh Atid Party would leave the government, presumably forcing new elections, if any new enlistment law covering the Haredi youth did not include sentencing them to incarceration and not simply calling for a fine or loss of government benefits. Any law which called for a loss of government benefits on any Haredi refusing a lawful draft would actually be even worse than a jail term as it would preclude their ability to study Torah full-time, the argument at the core of this debate. The Supreme Court declared the Tal Law unconstitutional voiding it thus removing the automatic deferment for anybody who studied Torah full-time in a structured arrangement from IDF or National Service. The Tal Law had been in effect since the formation of the State of Israel in 1948 and had just recently been challenged by leftist organization on the grounds that it was discriminatory. I am unaware of any people other than Haredi who had attempted to utilize the Tal Law to gain deferment from service on the grounds of full-time Torah study but if such were permitted then the law was not discriminatory. The leftists claimed that the law discriminated against secular Jews and non-Jews unfairly but since nobody from either group ever attempted to have the Tal Law applied to them, there is no case of it being denied to any other than Haredi draft age youth. Perhaps there is the solution to drafting a replacement law for the Tal Law, simply pass a new Tal Law that is worded almost exactly the same but include specific guidelines which make the law applicable to anybody who desires to take up full time Torah study in a structured environment. By allowing such a deferment to go to any citizen of draft age would remove any discriminatory application. It might be necessitated that an additional allowance be included determining that Haredi Torah schools be opened to other than Haredi who desire to study Torah full time. I would hope that the Haredi would welcome the additional interest in Torah study and willingly allow such applications and look upon them favorably.

 

Israeli Minister of Finance Yair Lapid has also taken a pro-two state peace plan position which is diametrically opposed to his campaign statements of support for those communities east of the 1949 Armistice Lines, the Green Line. He has praised United States Secretary of State Kerry and Israeli Justice Minister and lead negotiator Tzipi Livni on their efforts to forge a solution which will be tailored such that Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership will approve and sign said agreement. Yair Lapid has made statements degrading and ridiculing Naftali Bennett of the Jewish Home Party, the same man with whom an agreement was reached that either both or neither would join the coalition and also agreed to back the Jewish residents beyond the green line and fully support a Zionist agenda. I wish I could say that this contemptible reversal by Minister Lapid is surprising but he appears to be following and walking in the exact same footprints as his father, Tommy Lapid, walked in his brief political career. Just like Tommy Lapid and his Shinui Party, Yair Lapid is leading his party in a path that castigates the Haredi community and compromises a true Zionist view for the rights of the State and people of Israel. The polls have reflected this similarity as his father’s party entered the Knesset with six seats in its first election and failed ever after from returning and Lair’s party had an impressive nineteen seats in his first elections and polls have shown a steadily decreasing strength over time to where they are indicating that the Yesh Atid Party would only receive half that number if elections were held today. One can expect that number to continue to dwindle if Yair continues to fall away from his campaign promises and aligns further to the left and post-Zionist positions.

 

The erosion of support for Yair Lapid and his Yesh Atid Party is further proof that the people of Israel are returning to their religious roots and supporting a Zionist settling of all the lands of Israel and departing the leftist, socialist roots that ruled supreme for over fifty years after the founding of Israel. Where this will eventually lead has yet to be made clear. The optimistic side tells me that we will not need wait too much longer before we witness a change in the direction and attitudes of those who decide the path that the governance of Israel will take. The “old guard” will soon be replaced by a younger generation who appear to be less restrained in their enthusiasm and display an enviable level of energy and vigor. The future appears promising providing Israel can survive the remaining years of trial by fire and onslaught of an orchestrated drive to eradicate the Jewishness of Israel. Much of this has been aided by the absence of the full and unbridled support from the administration in Washington.

 

Beyond the Cusp

 

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February 9, 2013

Stubbornness Contest Between Shas and Yesh Atid

Prime Minister Netanyahu is facing difficulty in forming the large coalition which includes as broad a span of political views as possible such that the result will not be dependent on any single party other than Likud-Beytenu. The problem he has struck is the contest between Shas, the Hasidic Party and Yesh Atid headed by Yair Lapid who refuses to compromise on any of the party platform issues he and his list had campaigned upon. One issue which has become a hot button issue finds the religious parties including Shas in direct conflict with Lapid’s Yesh Atid stand that only the top four-hundred Torah students be allowed a deferment from IDF or National Service a part of the share the burden solution. Shas, needless to point out, wishes for an equal or at least very similar style deferment law as the Tal Law which was ruled to be against the constitution by the Supreme Court in a decision made in the final days under Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, a strange concept as Israel has no constitution. Neither side wishes to budge on this issue and Lapid, who is entering the Knesset for the first time as are all the people on his list, will likely be introduced to the concept that if you demand everything you will often end up not in the coalition and you get nothing, such is the way of parliamentary governance. My feelings are that Yair Lapid knows full well that at some point he will need to give in order to get but is going to play hard and stiff for as long as it serves to further his ideals and ideas and bend only at the last moment. Shas will not bend and will need to be bludgeoned into accepting any form of compromise but that is their way and is expected.

Yair Lapid might be playing a dangerous game believing that Netanyahu cannot permit him and his nineteen Knesset seats to join Shelly Yachimovich and the Labor Party in the opposition. He had best do the math and realize that Netanyahu can form a sixty-one seat coalition simply by including the two purely religious parties, Shas and Yahadut HaTorah with eleven and seven seats respectively along with HaBayit HaYehudi which has twelve seats. Add in the thirty-one seats of Netanyahu’s Likud-Beytenu Party reaches the sixty-one seats out of the Knesset’s one-hundred-twenty total seats, the minimum necessary for a majority to form a coalition. Netanyahu has even spoken with Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich and even the leader of Meretz, Zahava Gal-On, even though the likelihood of their parties joining the coalition are minimal, as the Prime Minister had stated he wishes to form as broad a governing coalition as possible, even a unity government, though that is next to impossible. All told, the forming of the coming coalition very well may prove to be more interesting than the usual cut and dry same old expected coalition of traditional allies. With some of the difficulties which may come to a head and have to be faced by the coming government, a large and stable coalition that is not dependent on any one party is something that is definitely desirable. I do not envy the members of this Knesset, especially having a fairly good idea of what challenges are coming down the rails like an out of control train.

Back to the tug-of-war between the Hasidic Parties and Lapid’s fairly secular party over exemptions may be the most evident battle ongoing but is not the only and may prove not to even be the most critical or vitally important debate that forming the coalition will need to address. Another of Lapid Party’s concerns that I feel is likely even more important concerns the economy and the price of living. One of the major segments of the economy which needs the magic touch of Netanyahu’s economic miracle workers is housing prices and rents. During the last Knesset Netanyahu took aim at the cell phone monopolies and he opened up that market to greater competition and the prices dropped like an anchor. Hopefully Netanyahu will be able to work similar miracles with housing and rental prices, then taking aim at food prices, especially dairy and the other areas where the number of vendors is quite limited. What makes this area even more important is that much could be gained in relieving some of the upward pressures on food prices that could be attained through annexing at a minimum Area C of Judea and Samaria, the area already under total Israeli rule and control. The additional farm lands and expanded area would serve as a stimulus to the Israeli economy, an economy that is already one of the most robust of the Industrialized West. Another possible benefit from such a move would be to place some pressure on the Palestinian leadership which might be sufficient a shock to bring Abbas to the negotiation table and remove from United States President Obama’s list of misconceptions about Israel, namely that it is Netanyahu who refuses to negotiate and Abbas the willing partner. In the meantime, let’s just relax and watch the barter and other fun that goes with making a coalition. I wonder if there were a way of making coalition forming the national sport of Israel after all, they do it far, far too often.

Beyond the Cusp

July 18, 2012

Requiem for Kadima

Late yesterday afternoon Shaul Mofaz, the leader of Kadima, announced that due to unbridgeable differences between Kadima’s views and the views held by Prime Minister Netanyahu and the ruling coalition in the Israeli Knesset towards drafting new legislation to replace the expiring Tal Law, Kadima has found it necessary to withdraw from the coalition they had joined only nine weeks ago. An entirely new law was necessitated by the unconstitutional ruling striking down the existing Tal Law by former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch in the final weeks of her term of service. It is likely that the mainstream Israeli media will play up the split from the coalition by Kadima a mere two months after joining the coalition as a failure in the leadership of the coalition by Netanyahu. The reality is very likely to prove otherwise, but do not hold your breath waiting for the media to reach such a conclusion as they are heavily invested in casting Prime Minister Netanyahu as incompetent and ruining the coalition of the people by his support of the extreme Orthodox and Haredi communities and the illegal settlements in Judea and Samaria. They will use the ill-fated end to retaining Kadima in the coalition as further proof of Netanyahu, Likud, and the settler fanatic extremist parties in the coalition, especially should the Knesset vote to accept and enact as Israeli policy the recent results of the Levy Commission. This was a report on the legality of the existing settlements and any further Jewish settlement activities in Judea and Samaria under International Law, the Geneva Conventions, and numerous treaties which were signed and ratified by numerous European governments, the United States and the United Nations in its founding documents pertaining to respecting and implementing all agreements from the League of Nations, all of which defined the lands between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea as belonging to the Jewish State once it had been formed and allowed, encouraged and insisted even, Jewish settlement in order to facilitate such formation.

The real question is whether allowing Kadima to join the coalition and revealing their anti-religious fanaticism and anti-settlement dispositions served the coalition or not. The near future will prove that by allowing Kadima to join the coalition and tasking them to lead in crafting a new law establishing a universal draft, which they had demanded they be allowed in order to join the coalition, and then refusing to moderate their poisonous demands victimizing the religious communities as the Plesner Committee recommendations held. Members of the coalition accused Plesner of attempting to wage war on the religious communities while ignoring any service commitment by Arab Israelis and other minorities by pressing for severe sanction on solely religious Jews who refused service. Kadima leadership stood fast demanding near total drafting of all Hareidim with drastic penalties to be imposed on any refusing to comply without addressing the fact that a sizeable portion of the secular community also tend to go to extremes to avoid service. The end result of allowing Kadima to force this confrontation will likely be a split in the Kadima membership with the larger part leaving the coalition while a possibly sizeable remainder declining to leave with the rest and remaining in the coalition. This will result in making Likud the majority party and will reduce the size and following of Kadima. How anybody can call strengthening the coalition by making the best of an unpleasant confrontation forced by Kadima Chairman Shaul Mofaz who overplayed his hand in an attempt to destroy the coalition thus leaving him and Kadima weaker and Likud and Netanyahu strengthened a failure escapes me. Most rational people would look at how this will eventually turn out and congratulate Prime Minister Netanyahu with pulling a virtual coup against Shaul Mofaz and the strongest of the opposition parties by allowing them to push their hand too stridently and dashing themselves against the rocks of public opinion and political realities.

The main fallout from this overstated coalition crisis is the remaining need for crafting a replacement draft law for the soon expired Tal Law. The advantage now is that the entire controversy over how to craft the new law and whether service should be strictly applied solely upon the Haredi and Orthodox communities and enforced in a vicious manner or whether the solution should be applied humanely and with reasoned and crafted steps allowing for a gradual adoption of the new standards will be discussed and implemented in an adult manner instead as by the spiteful insult of childlike adults throwing a fit. The public was treated to a full disclosure of the original intent of former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch to subvert the universal Torah Study by the Hareidim by pressing them into mandatory military or community service in place of Yeshiva studies. The debate being made public will allow a more reasoned approach which will retain the best of the Yeshiva studies of Torah, a vital and important pursuit in the service of Israeli society, while still making arrangements to allow and eventually require a larger percentage of Hareidim and Orthodox to perform IDF or community service bringing these communities into closer alignment with the service rates of the rest of Israeli society. It has also opened up the discussion on whether the Arab Israeli society should also be called to do at a minimum some form of community service if they prefer to refuse IDF enlistment. Despite the media claims which are sure to come decrying the death of Israeli democracy with the exit by Kadima from the coalition, the Israeli people will have been given a greater voice and a closer inspection of the machinations of the debate on this vital and definitive issue. If that is not real democracy and a healthy attitude of governance, then I don’t know what is. We must tip our hat and credit Prime Minister Netanyahu with having played a smarter game of politics than his opponents while also including the will of the majority of people in deciding the path for the government on of the the most vital and momentous legislations before the Knesset.

Beyond the Cusp

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