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Thursday
Nov012012

POLITICAL UNITY OR UNIFORMITY?

Translated by Michoel Leib Dobry

While it’s been good to hear all the talk about uniting the religious and right-wing parties, this unity must be real, disqualifying no one and opening the door to everyone. Only this type of unity will send a clear message to the public at-large, enabling a united list of candidates to garner a considerably larger number of Knesset seats and become a decisive force in the next government.

The election atmosphere that has captured the attention of the citizens of Eretz Yisroel didn’t just pop out of nowhere. The country’s political machinery has been working for several months in preparation for the official start of the election campaign, and all the various parties are now off and running. It was only a question of timing: When will the prime minister put an end to all the smoke and mirrors on the election issue and send the voters back to the ballot box?

Even the religious parties had been preparing for the expected announcement. However, it appears once again that instead of trying to create an aura of real unity in their ranks, they are more concerned with the question of who won’t have a realistic spot in a united list of candidates – if and when it is formed. It seems that despite the decades that have passed since the Rebbe wrote numerous letters on the issue of religious unity in Israeli politics – nothing has changed. Instead of trying to increase the size of the religious/ultra-Orthodox bloc, they are busy dealing with more important questions, such as who will lead the party in the upcoming campaign and who will receive the higher-ranking positions in the next government.

There were those who sought to advance this process, as they attempted to unite all the right-wing and religious parties prior to the last Knesset elections four years ago. Naturally, these efforts went largely for naught. This was due in part to all those who saw themselves as future government ministers and committee chairmen, no matter what the price, and their refusal to join forces with “extremists” from the nationalist camp. They forgot that it was specifically the “moderate leadership” that brought us to the disgraceful expulsion from Gush Katif. To this day, they have not been called to account. It is in this very same fashion that the current government easily approved the destruction of Ramat Gilad, Givat HaUlpana, and Migron. They are simply unwilling to admit to the world that they were wrong, as they always seek to find others to blame, i.e., those politicians who steadfastly maintained the struggle for Eretz Yisroel, and with whom they categorically refused to sit in the same government.

The Jewish People are paying the price for this stubbornness through the reckless abandon of the Israeli government and the High Court of Justice, while the right-wing and ultra-Orthodox parties go completely unnoticed. The political power wielded by the Torah-observant sectors failed during this past year to stop the waves of uncontrolled incitement against the ultra-Orthodox communities or the irrational and unjustified removal of Jews from their homes.

The harsh truth is that a right-of-center government is doing the work of the leftists, and there’s no viable opposition to stand against it. The nationalist parties are splintered and divided, unwilling to fight together for their shared principles as one united bloc. Take for example the proposed “arrangements bill,” the unsuccessful legislation designed to protect Jewish communities in Yehuda and Shomron from demolition if they were built with government assistance. It is quite evident that if Shas, Yahadut HaTorah (United Torah Judaism), and Bayit HaYehudi (the former NRP) had presented a joint demand for passage of the proposed law, including a warning that they would all bolt the government if the legislation failed to receive Knesset approval, the prime minister would have been compelled to take this into account and would not have undermined the bill. However, when the only party to threaten Netanyahu with leaving the coalition (a threat it never carried out) was Bayit HaYehudi, there was no chance that the prime minister would take such threats seriously from those demanding the bill’s passage.

When we consider the numerous letters that the Rebbe wrote on the issue of political unity among the religious parties, we realize that this is not a political matter. This is a question of protecting the Jewish values of the Jewish state.

We learned this lesson during the last year. In every respect, this was a year to be remembered as one filled with very difficult struggles, eventually concluding with one failure after another. The ultra-Orthodox and religious communities failed to close ranks and wage a united struggle, and the media had a field day with these two sectors, weakening them considerably in political terms.

IF THERE HAD BEEN TRUE UNITY, EVEN THE MEDIA BATTLE WOULD HAVE APPEARED DIFFERENT

It’s impossible to separate the vested interests of the ultra-Orthodox parties from those of the other religious parties. The problem is that they also didn’t unite these interests in order to fight for a common cause. All the talk about solidarity within the ultra-Orthodox and national religious sectors has failed to achieve any joint action or parliamentary struggle to help them in their battles on behalf of their communities.

The battles waged by these two groups eventually followed the same path. The media that did such harm to the country’s Jewish values is the same media that caused damage to the Jewish outposts and neighborhoods in Yehuda and Shomron. In the present absurd situation with a biased media in Eretz Yisroel, it is in the best interests of both these religious sectors and all the religious parties to set things straight. The same applies to the flagrant injustice in the conduct of the Israeli High Court of Justice, which violates the rights of Jewish settlers in Yehuda and Shomron. Similarly, it denies the right of the ultra-Orthodox communities to maintain services in keeping with their Torah observant lifestyle, such as “mehadrin” bus lines.

If the ultra-Orthodox and religious parties would unite in strength and initiate a joint struggle in the various parliamentary committees against the media bias, we would undoubtedly get a far more responsible press in this country. We were privileged to see this during several battles when religious Knesset Members across the political spectrum spoke with one voice. When MK Yisroel Eichler (Yahadut HaTorah) stood together with MK Yaakov “Ketzele” Katz (Ichud HaLeumi) to save the Givat HaUlpana neighborhood, his words rang with greater clarity before the Knesset committees, earning him much respect in the eyes of the public. By the same token, “Ketzele” received well-deserved plaudits when he announced that he would support the ultra-Orthodox sector in the face of organized incitement against the “mehadrin” bus lines.

The very fact that we see unity among politicians from these two sectors causes those on the outside to reconsider their objections. They realize that this is not just a battle of “black hats” or “orange ribbons” but a general struggle by a wide cross-section of communities. Such an understanding will enable the parties to coordinate their positions and set clear demands for overall change in the government’s attitude towards anything with an aroma of Yiddishkait.

A UNIFIED FRONT 
AGAINST NETANYAHU

The upcoming elections will apparently deal with two central issues: the Iranian threat and the socio-economic threat that initiated the waves of protests throughout the country last summer. These two issues will shift the focus away from the question of the territorial integrity of Eretz Yisroel and the possible establishment of an independent Palestinian state, G-d forbid. In the upcoming elections, scheduled for the day after Yud Shvat, the politicians will have no need to contrive any evasive answers for whether or not they support the peace agreements, nor will they be asked to present their own foreign policy proposals. Despite the highly critical nature of these issues, they will be allowed to dodge them through empty slogans.

The real question is not what will happen during the election campaign, but what will happen the day after. There is a genuine sense of concern over a possible third election victory for a prime minister who has already announced his intention to establish a Palestinian state and who enjoys a high public approval rating – with no viable alternative for leadership. This is exactly what happened during the premiership of Ariel Sharon. In his first two years in office after defeating Ehud Barak in a special election, he merely asserted his positions on certain issues without any clear policy action. However, after he led the Likud Party to a landslide victory at the polls, his policy positions were transformed into the actual steps leading to the malicious expulsion of the Jewish communities in the Gaza Strip, carried out with a flood of public support.

It is specifically for this reason that there must be a firm united front against the prime minister to prevent further dangerous withdrawals and “disengagements.” It doesn’t matter whether this front sits around the government table or on the opposition benches. The important thing is that there should be a coalition of religious/ultra-Orthodox parties with all faith-filled Knesset Members from the political right-wing. The purpose of this coalition will be to protect the prime minister against unwarranted pressure from the media and the leftists.

In his correspondence on the subject of a united political front, the Rebbe also proposed the option of a technical bloc. In other words, the parties run with a single list of candidates, and each one operates as a separate and independent parliamentary faction after the election. This option permits each party to tend to its own voting public and their educational institutions without harming any future coordination or cooperation in coalition negotiations. This possibility can easily lay the groundwork for a viable run for the premiership by a religious or ultra-Orthodox candidate. However, until that happens, it will change the attitude towards the religious/ultra-Orthodox parties in coalition negotiations when it presents a united front of thirty-five Knesset seats as an incontrovertible precondition in the formation of any future Israeli government.

DON’T SETTLE FOR UNITY BETWEEN ONLY TWO PARTIES

While it’s been good to hear all the talk about uniting the religious and right-wing parties, this unity must be real, disqualifying no one and opening the door to everyone. Only this type of unity will send a clear message to the public at-large, enabling a united list of candidates to garner a considerably larger number of Knesset seats and become a decisive force in the next government.

But more importantly, we must not settle for a symbolic unification of two small parties. We must continue to demand that the politicians strive for overall unity among all Torah-observant parties, as the Rebbe prophetically requested decades ago and which remains a viable and necessary option to this very day.

 

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