The New Israeli Elite

In the courts, in the knesset, and in the media, society

The frenzy and havoc raging around the Supreme Court appointments is based on a fallacy. All the parties - right and extreme right, liberals, democrats and total leftists - are squabbling over the judicial elite in an argument suitable to the era 30 years ago. As though the attorneys, judges and legal advisers with the Yekke accent from Rehavia are still walking among us.

What's the commotion all about? If the extreme right had an iota of integrity, it would admit not only that this elite died long ago, but that the right has been replacing its remnants and heirs with the new elite. The conductor of this turnover is Yaakov Neeman, who is not an elected official but a personal appointment of the prime minister.

Dorit Beinisch and Yaakov Neeman - Olivier Fitoussi - 07112011
Olivier Fitoussi

Neeman himself is the embodiment of the new elite - a successful, skull cap-wearing attorney well-situated in the business world with ramified connections among the ultra-Orthodox leadership. He has a finger in every pie and nobody knows what he owes whom and who owes him. The two Supreme Court candidates he pushed are a reflection of his worldview and his shaping of the new elite. The first is Yoram Danziger, the representative of private business, who has meanwhile been suspended due to his business ties preceding his candidacy. The second is Noam Sohlberg, the settler whose appointment is being held up in absence of a "deal."

Anyone looking for a clue to future developments will find it in these two appointments, which Neeman insisted on, as he insisted on dragging the Rabbinical Court far back into the past. But not only the legal system's elite has been replaced. The right continues to persecute, all the while posing as the victim, the shadow of the left that it accuses of dominating the media, politics and intellectual life.

But never mind the left. Not a trace of it remains and it is further from power today than it has ever been. But even in the ruling party the "princes" have long been pushed into a dusty corner, from which they are feebly fighting over the remnants of liberal and democratic values. So Reuven Rivlin objects to the libel law and Dan Meridor and Benny Begin object to the NGOs law. Nobody takes them seriously anymore. The new elite - Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely and Danny Danon - is dictating the party's and Knesset's agenda. In fact, they're dictating the whole country's agenda.

What remains of the media is not worth talking about. Most of the media are controlled by the new elite. And intellectual life? The public and academia are preoccupied with their debates on the brain drain and brain return and in the commotion the intellectual elite has been annihilated. The universities are impoverished, the presence of philosophers, historians, sociologists, authors and poets, artists and intellectuals has dwindled. There is no one to consult on major moral and social issues, no one to comment on their essays and work. They are as good as dead.

They have been replaced by - who else - the rabbis. Their every utterance is quoted and becomes the focus of public discourse. One example is Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, who instructs yeshiva rabbis to order soldiers to leave the room if they hear "women's singing," even if they have to face a firing squad outside. Another example: the new prophetic rabbis. The new money elite visits them and doesn't move without consulting them.

Ah yes, the new money elite. That is all that remains of the term "elite." It reflects, more than anything else, the face of Israeli society. For with all their real flaws, which have been written about endlessly and for which they have been blamed incessantly, those judges and professors from Rehavia were certainly an elite. Israel once recruited them to establish a justice system, culture, academe, planning, infrastructures, public medicine and a welfare system and to build an enlightened, ideological, visionary society. They were committed, dedicated and responsible to their country and the society that praised them.

But a generation is a reflection of its elite. And the new elite apparently knows its worth. Otherwise, why doesn't it stop hounding the dead shadow of the annihilated old one?

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: מי כאן האליטה