Keeping Israel Jewish and Pure - and Democractic if There's Time

It's not a democratic state or a national Israeli state Netanyahu wants the Palestinians to recognize, but a state characterized by the values of Rabbi Wolpo, Rabbi Elyahu and the other geniuses.

"The vast majority of the rabbis who signed the rabbis' letter are from the national-religious camp, they're enlightened and they've served in the army. But no mention is made of this. This is selective castigation," a source at the Ministry of Religious Services told Haaretz. Those doing the "selective castigation," according to this source, are members of the left and the media, trapped by their preconceptions about those rabbis now busy cleaning the streets of the Holy Land from the Arab affliction.

He is right. The division between "good" and "bad" rabbis is usually based on positions regarding the territories. Thus, for example, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, the current favorite, used to be a "bad" rabbi, because he opposed the disengagement from Gaza and the division of Jerusalem and because assailed the Supreme Court for putting an end to ethnic discrimination in Emmanuel. In recent days, though, he's become the darling of Israeli liberals because he condemned the letter of the rabbis who oppose renting or selling homes to Arabs. Liberal Israelis, and among them primarily the secular, like rabbis who oppose boycotting Arabs. They like those rabbis who define morality for them. This is a community so desperate to have its views legitimized that it is willing to rely on the halakha and on its interpreters, among them Elyashiv.

Those who thirst for religious legitimacy, whether in Jewish or Muslim theocracies, grant the religious leadership the power to define what is "the proper form of state" - in other words, a proper Jewish state not just from a religious perspective. Thus, for example, Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpo, one of the signatories of the controversial letter, explains that it "touched on the difficult issues of assimilation and security problems that resulted when entire neighborhoods were occupied by Arabs, and the Jewish community suffered. With all due respect to the attorney general, he has no authority to undermine halakha. It is the job of the rabbis to give halakhic responses to those who ask."

Dismissing the authority of the state is a not new thing for these rabbis. After all, the definition of a democratic state is not something that preoccupies them; their role is to guard the walls which shield the Jewish state from democracy and liberal values. It is, in fact, democracy which they perceive as a terrible security threat to Israel. The attorney general made them laugh when, after a prolonged delay, he decided to look into the "criminal aspects" of their letter. So expressing views and "answering halakhic questions" is now off limits? And is this so even when those asking are like soldiers who follow every halakhic order? And who is this attorney general who dares dispute the word of the Lord and his laws? Does he not realize what the justice minister already knows? That this is a time for the educated to remain silent.

This is a Jewish State; first and foremost Jewish and only Jewish. Democracy? Only if its Jewishness leaves some scraps for that. This is the state for which the prime minister is demanding recognition from the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. It's not a democratic state or a national Israeli state he wants them to recognize, but a state characterized by the values of Rabbi Wolpo, Rabbi Elyahu and the other geniuses. A state that in one of its more sane moments passed laws against racial incitement and now does not know what to do with them. Because it may be possible to put a rabbi who is a civil servant on trial, but it is not possible to put on trial a worldview and all its supporters. It's possible to put on trial its interpreters but not the halakha itself. This is not a face-off between the state and criminals who understand the risks of violating the law. This is a face-off over the monopoly on ethics, between the state and those it has granted authority to determine the boundaries of ethics. The war of a state which has comprehended too late that religion has no boundaries. This is a state that demands, not only from the Palestinians and the world to recognize it as a Jewish state, but also from all those it is willing to accept as citizens. The criterion for loyalty was formed by in the image of Wolpo and Elyahu and the rest of the rabbis who signed the letter. This is loyalty that runs contrary to the laws which it legislated, and the basis which it carved on its Declaration of Independence. Such loyalty means violation. The Palestinians are wrong for refusing to recognize that this is a Jewish state. They should only add to it that they want nothing to do with such a Jewish state.