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Zionism and Israeli elections Zionism and Israeli elections
by Joseph Gatt
2019-06-10 08:47:48
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Israel was always a consensus. The consensus was, and these are my words “a State where cultural and religious Jews live in harmony.” That is, if you ask a religious Jew: are cultural Jews, Jews? They will say yes and make no further comment. If you ask cultural Jews if they are Jewish they will say yes and make no further comment.

Unlike Islam where Muslims love to discuss fatwas and discuss what rules involve being a Muslim, the consensus in Israel was to avoid any debate involving the correct path to religion.

isr001_400But this consensus was brittle, and the April 9 elections showed that it could break at any point. The right-wing failed to find a consensus between cultural and religious Jews. Cultural Jews, in the likes of Avigdor Lieberman, broke the golden rule by suggesting that Ultra-Orthodox Jews serve in the military. Up until now, Israelis tolerated the fact that the Ultra-Orthodox did not serve in the military.

I look at things this way. In Vietnam, the only way to avoid mandatory military conscription is by becoming a Buddhist monk, forgoing marriage and leading an ascetic life in the process. In Israel, the Ultra-Orthodox have their lifestyle, and the golden rule was that their lifestyle remain in harmony in the presence of cultural Jews.

Since around the year 2000, many cultural Jews in Israel have felt that Ultra-Orthodox Jews are an unnecessary tax burden, and that cultural Jews get nothing in return. Ultra-Orthodox Jews don't allow contraception, mothers compete with each other to break records when it comes to child birth, and the Ultra-Orthodox population keeps growing, while that of other religious or secular or cultural Jews keeps stagnating. Cultural Jews not only bear a tax burden when it comes to the Ultra-Orthodox Jews, they also bear a legal burden, as planes can't fly on the Sabbath, trains don't run on the Sabbath, public schools and administration must bear the financial burden of Kosher kitchens, and, icing on the cake, cultural Jews can't legally marry non-Jews or can't marry in civil ceremonies.

Now the September 17 elections are going to be very complicated elections. Assume the Likud gets 40 seats; it will have to choose between a coalition with the religious party or the cultural parties. Suppose the religious parties get 16 seats and the cultural parties get another 10-15 seats. And suppose they can't agree on a coalition. We will have to go to elections again, in December or January. Because the left wing and center-left will probably only get 45-50 seats.

Is Israel going to be the next Belgium, where French and Dutch Belgians no longer believed in living together in harmony. Will Israel not have a government for several years because it will be divided in 3 irreconcilable factions that is the religious right wing, the secular right wing, and the left?

Then Israel would have to consider changing the election system from integral proportional perhaps to a constituency-based, first past the post system. That would mean that some parties could actually have the majority in parliament.

Or will Israel move to have a national unity government as in 1984 where Netanyahu and Benny Gantz will be Prime Minister for 2 years on a rotating basis.

Or will Netanyahu use divide and conquer tactics, that is divide the secular right and the religious right and steal their votes.

Whatever happens, the Likud needs at least 50 seats for there to be a government in Israel. 50 seats means over 40% of the vote.

Whatever happens, such divisions in Israeli politics are unprecedented. Israel had always gained what little credibility it had internationally by having a cohesive, competent government. I hope there will be a government after the September 17 elections.  

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