Opinion

I Pray You, Brother, Do Not So Wickedly

Bezalel Smotrich (left) and Rafi Peretz at a conference in Jerusalem, March 11, 2019.
Olivier Fitoussi

The Union of Right-Wing Parties placed itself at the forefront of the fight against the judicial imperialism of the High Court of Justice and against the (appointed) ministerial legal advisors setting themselves above the (elected) decision makers. To enact laws that would change these anomalies, the alliance is willing to support a legislative move that will prevent the State Prosecutor’s Office from indicting Benjamin Netanyahu.

By aiding the prime minister’s immunity, the religious Zionist MKs are saying that they have no religious or ethical problem with the offenses with which the attorney general seeks to charge (only to charge!) Netanyahu. How, we must ask, will these elected officials be able to face the students and graduates of the fine education system this movement so devotedly created? What message will be absorbed by students raised on the justice and integrity of the Jewish prophets and on the categorical imperative, “in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor”?

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Rabbi Rafi Peretz taught his students to guard fiercely Israel’s unity. Does he not fear that the proposed legislative changes to parliamentary immunity will undermine his educational work? He, who educated generations in the light of the Torah, the land and the love of Israel, will be asked to cite the source of the exemption permitting him to vote counter to the unequivocal ethical and religious prohibition against “favoring the mighty”? How will he explain his decision to ignore the prophet Nathan’s exhortation to King David regarding Uriah the Hittite? How can he rush to vote for a bill that goes against both Jewish religious law, or halakha, and the spirit the law in Israel and every other place in the world that upholds the principle of equality before the law? If the High Court of Justice strikes down this law it would be, in every sense of the word, an appropriate act.

Bezalel Smotrich, a leader in the making, derives his political conduct from halakha. Jeremiah’s rebuke to the kings sitting on David’s throne — “Execute ye justice and righteousness and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor” clearly underpins his numerous legislative initiatives. The same goes for “Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by injustice; that useth his neighbor’s service without wages, and giveth him not his hire.”

According to reports, Smotrich is the major force pushing the so-called immunity law. How can he continue to look his followers in the face? And what about his party colleagues, who toe the line that he lays down? Their way of life couldn’t be farther from the dubious ways of the man for whom they sacrifice themselves in order to save him from judgment. What leads them to abandon, for a blatantly unkosher cause, Maimonides’ doctrine — that a king in Israel shall not accumulate silver and gold, except “for the public’s needs and not [to] boast with or to dandify himself with”?

Joining the move to pass the immunity law will also damage, in both moral and practical terms, the broad public consensus on the need to strip from the High Court — and restore to the Knesset — the authority to rule on core issues pertaining to key national, security and political principles. The fight to revoke the authority, appropriated by the High Court, to overturn laws passed by the Knesset is of secondary importance. The ordinary citizen will say: The right accuses the left, justly, of harnessing the judicial system to its political goals. Now the right, headed by the ideological right, is taking advantage of its majority in the Knesset to enact the immunity law.

The immunity bill is one law too many. It will deeply divide the nation, including the religious Zionists. For what, and for whom? I pray you, brother, do not so wickedly!