Unnatural Bedmates: Time for Haredim to Cut Loose From the Likud

The left's contempt pushed the Ashkenazi Haredim into the arms of the Likud nearly three decades ago. Now is the time for United Torah Judaism to break loose from the irrational, false theology of Bennett and Feiglin and hitch their wagon to Yesh Atid's up-and-coming political star.

David Landau
David Landau
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David Landau
David Landau

There has been precious little attention from the commentariat to an election result of huge significance. United Torah Judaism went up from five seats to seven.

Seven seats, and barely a word about them anywhere. Like the Arab parties' 12. (Haaretz's Yair Ettinger was a happy if belated exception.)

But that's typical of the condescension, not to say contempt, with which the largely leftist intelligentsia, strongly represented among media pundits, has treated the Haredim for decades. It goes a long way to explaining why the Haredi rabbis, profoundly moderate in their politics, nevertheless found their way to the bosom of Menachem Begin's Likud in 1977, and remained there, essentially, ever since.

Eshkol, Golda, Rabin, Peres, Barak – all were guilty of that same short-sighted, high-handed, self-defeating condescension. Their condescension has served for decades to shore up the 'national camp' – the Likud and what Benjamin Netanyahu calls its "natural partners" – as Israel's presumptive governing coalition.

There is nothing "natural" about the Haredim's partnership with the messianic-settler-right or with the secular-Jabotinsky-right. Nothing except the left's obtuse condescension.

UTJ ran no campaign to speak of. Its rabbis and leaders were embroiled in lively internecine conflict, replete with excrescences of actual violence. Still, they went up to seven. And that's just for starters. Perhaps when UTJ reaches double figures – a veritable inexorability, and imminent, too, given the demography of Israel's under-18's – people in the peace camp will wake up.

Nevertheless, here is a leftist's word of advice, indeed word of plea, to the rampant, triumphant Haredim.

You're on the up-and-up; cut loose from Netanyahu's Likud. It's a waning star. Why be linked to a loser?

This election, thanks to one honest man, Naftali Bennett, has dramatically catalyzed and graphically illuminated that shift in political fortunes and sympathies. Bennett, with his refreshing, single-minded straight talking, flatly rejected the two-state solution and unequivocally spurned Palestinian aspirations. He pulled the whole 'national camp' to his extreme side, and he seemed to be pulling the whole country along after him.

The screeching of brakes – unheard at the time by the pollsters and pundits – that put a stop to Bennett's great surge towards power expressed a mass recoiling, by thousands and thousands of mainly young people, at the certain prospect of endless occupation, repression, discrimination and eventual confrontation that Bennett's messianist vision holds out. Yair Lapid is the great beneficiary of that last-minute collective wising up.

You, Ashkenazi Haredim, election victors just like Lapid, should wise up, too. You should look to Lapid, to his eclectic list (two kosher lemehadrin rabbis), to his so-unmessianic constituency, as the up-and-coming political force to which to hitch your wagon.

Yair is no Tommy. You need only watch his YouTube lecture at the Kiryat Ono haredi college a year ago (yeah, yeah, none of you has Internet, God forbid) to see how aware he is of your spiritual strength and dynamism.

That does not mean – nor should it – that he is not sincere and determined in his commitment to achieve greater equality in national service. But it's high time you wised up in that matter, too. Your growth, your success, bli ayin hara, have made the blanket exemptions no longer tenable, no longer feasible. Yair Lapid is the spokesman of an ineluctable truth that unites all Israeli Jews, including, discreetly, many of you.

Clearly, he is open to dialogue and constructive compromise on this issue.

But there can be no compromise, ultimately, with the false messianism of a Bennett (or indeed of a Bibi in the thrall of Bennetts, Danons and Feiglins). That's not rational politics; it's irrational, false theology. The kind of false theology, perverted into suicidal strategy by the fundamentalist fanatics of that time, that put paid to our last attempt at sovereignty, 2,000 years ago as Tractate Gittin so graphically relates.

What we all can learn from Bennett is the value of honesty in politics. Get honest. Get back to the rational, non-fundamentalist camp where you belong. Perhaps, at last, your powerful showing in the election will prompt the leaders of that camp to wise up to you, too.

General election assembly of "Yahadut Hatorah", ultra-Orthodox party running for the Israeli parliament "Knesset", January 17, 2013.Credit: Ahikam Seri

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