In response to a soldier’s question, former IDF Chief Rabbi Avichai Rontzki once ruled that on Shabbat, every effort should be made not to treat a gentile wounded in a confrontation with the army. And if the soldier received an explicit order to do so, he must “alter” the treatment, or, in other words, just pretend to be treating the wounded Arab.
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In present-day Israel the severity of such a ruling might be unclear. Even those who aren’t familiar with the moral principle must, at least, be shocked by the direct instruction to deceive the IDF commanders, in order to carry out a halakhic (Jewish legal) decree forbidding a Jew from giving medical treatment to a gentile on Shabbat. Still, one thing must be clear: It’s either Rontzki’s Israel − he was recently appointed to coerce the country with his brand of Judaism − or the Israel of the Declaration of Independence.
The rabbi’s advice to the soldier was no slip of the tongue. Rontzki was also asked if one is permitted to protect Christian pilgrims at the Jordan River on Shabbat, and he answered that in principle one shouldn’t do so, and the commanders should be persuaded in every possible manner, including pressure from the unit’s rabbis, not to issue the order. He added that it is important to abolish this “strange edict.”
Rontzki further ruled that the battle against the first intifada and its stone-throwing was a milkhemet mitzvah, or holy war − a definition that allows viewing everyone on the other side as an enemy who must be killed. After becoming the “war-anointed” rabbi in what was established as a defensive army, and expressing pride that his rabbis gave inflammatory, war-mongering speeches before battle, Rontzki was appointed by this regime of “Jewish Brothers” as the official promoter of “Jewish values” to Israelis, via the regime’s new Jewish Identity Administration.
Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Perigord, who served as a minister under Napoleon, is credited with the quote, “It was worse than a crime, it was a mistake.” The fact that after elections dominated by secular, civil and settlement-neutral issues, the man who exploited the social protest, Yair Lapid, decided to crown the settler-Rontzki worldview as the dominant one in Israeli society − this was first and foremost a crime, but also a mistake. The night when the trickery of the unequal sharing of the burden revealed the rule of the hesder yeshivas − the program which combines advanced Talmudic studies with shortened military service, usually within a religious Zionist framework − also revealed the form of the new order foisted on his secular voters by Lapid’s mistake.
Lapid’s briefing to journalists after his pro-settler interview to the New York Times further clarified the dimensions of his mistake. Lapid tried to persuade his listeners that his effort to take on a right-wing, settler point of view is actually a cunning strategy that would eventually lead him to the prime minister’s office. The shallowness of his multi-dimensional mistake is, in effect, a crime against logic.
Lapid is trying to invent a nonexistent precedent. In Western politics, nobody is elected without a “base.” Whoever shakes off his base is left without one. Yitzhak Rabin, Menachem Begin and Benjamin Netanyahu never forgot this basic rule. Ehud Barak’s decision to ignore his base was the end of his political career. Lapid’s efforts to sell his IDF-serving voters to the “Jewish Brothers,” will do him no good: He will never be the Rontzki world’s candidate, and if he continues on this course, he will also lose his Declaration-of-Independence base.
Another dimension of Lapid’s mistake makes his candidacy unreasonable, even counterproductive. According to Lapid, a candidate of the non-Rontzki world must be equipped with a right-wing security image, in order to gain legitimacy when leading a withdrawal from the occupied territories. Ben-Gurion, Rabin, Barak and Sharon enjoyed such an image. Lapid, who built his career on a “civilian,” “soft,” “prosperous” image, will be drawn to failure by trying to prove he is actually a right-wing bully. This is the path that leads to “unfortunate affairs” such as Pinchas Lavon’s bungled false flag operation in Egypt in 1954, or Ehud Olmert’s decision to wage the Second Lebanon War. Lapid might step on this land mine very soon, if the Syrian crisis deepens.
An alternative must be established to the Rontzki-world calamity. The Ashkenazi-Dagan-Diskin trio, together with Barak, Ami Ayalon, Amos Yadlin, Tzipi Livni and Shaul Mofaz, must forget all their past disagreements and fight together, as if they were 18 years old again. They must act as many did in 1948, by joining forces while forgetting personal grievances, in the battle for the State of Israel. The Declaration of Independence and its promises are in serious danger of being defeated by the Rontzki world.