Israel's Future as a Democratic and Pluralistic Society Is at Stake

Israel today is not the same country that we lived in from 1992 to 2012. The danger to be expected today from the new right, loud and self-righteous, is different.

Rabbis for Human Rights

I agonized a great deal over whether to write the following lines. I don’t like to take the dubious role of a preacher of morals, whose righteousness is clear in his eyes and whose wrath against those who deny it knows no bounds. But the events of these days are the fruit of the reckless atmosphere created recently, and I cannot remain silent.

I cannot hold to the purism that many of my colleagues allow themselves. I read articles meticulously, follow their logic and positions, and it seems to me that something in their fundamental assumptions is flawed and archaic. Israel today is not the same country that we lived in from 1992 to 2012. The danger to be expected today from the new right, loud and self-righteous, is different.

Years ago right-wingers tried to prevent a peace treaty. They settled and confronted the governments of Israel, made declarations against the Supreme Court, against the rule of law and against the those who deny the truth of “our right to the territories that were conquered.” That was their tune, but certainly not a popular one. Uri Ariel could tweet all he wanted, but even Naftali Bennett did not want him.

The people too are not stuck in place. If once they were told that in order to achieve peace two states were needed and the division of Jerusalem, and a large portion of the people leaned toward this difficult process, today there is no longer a demand for all this. The people are brainwashed with stories of conspiracies of Arabs and their collaborators against the State of Israel. And when Yariv Levin, a cabinet minister, speaks despicably against the Supreme Court, the expectation is that the prime minister will have his say. But noting is being said.

So, the op-ed writers will ask, what is so different? After all, we always conducted debates with the right.

That simply is not true. Maybe there was always an argument, and the Levins and Ariels and their ilk were always there on the horizon, but then they looked like a trivial minority. Now, in comparison, they are heavenly voices rising out of the corridors of the right – and we, what are we busy with? With learned proofs of how much Isaac Herzog and his colleagues are not truly part of the left (and Berl Katznelson was?), and how much Yair Lapid ingratiates himself to the public spirit of the time. Herzog and Lapid, say the punctilious with their noses all out of joint, are nothing but right-wingers in disguise.

We have not learned to understand that the battle today is different. It is not about dividing Jerusalem, but over our continued existence as a democratic and pluralistic society in its nature; about the continued proper functioning of the legal system, given the lack of a constitution; over civil rights, which are being eroded because of the emphasis on the Jewish and the minimizing of the democratic, while turning our backs on the world of customs and laws and limits on destructiveness.

Herzog, Lapid and Zehava Galon, and maybe even a large part of Moshe Kahlon’s party, are partners in the position that the divergence of the State of Israel from its proper path is a historic mistake. Because we came to build a country, and not to bring about the “redemption of Israel.” Because we are fighting for equality between nations, sexes and communities.

There was a discreet hope that maybe Benjamin Netanyahu has limits. That maybe he would understand that the crawling deligitimization is his doing too, and maybe even the fragility of Israeli democracy.

None of this happened. Today it is clear that Netanyahu and Levin are one and the same.

I am not preaching for establishing a joint camp. It seems this will not happen; the egos of the sides involved are too big.

But cooperation is needed. The voters must understand those who ask to stop the erosion of democracy and the rise of theocracy and are willing to join hands in order to do so. The situation is changing quickly, and we must respond appropriately.