Fly me to the moon, let me play among the stars; let me see what spring is like on Jupiter and Mars.....
(Written by Bart Howard in 1954; recorded by Frank Sinatra in 1964 in honor of the Apollo mission to the moon)
I had the most amazing dream last night.
I dreamed I was the sole passenger on Israel’s Beresheet spacecraft, as it left Earth’s orbit on our nation’s maiden voyage to the moon. Suddenly, all the election balagan was far behind me, all the screaming and squawking and candidate-slandering was nowhere to be heard; just a cosmic blanket of serene silence covering me, as I gazed at God’s heavenly glory. I would land on April 11, two days after the shouting and voting was over, and the people’s will would be confirmed. I was basking in the vivid light of the stars, enjoying the perfect, ultimate get-away.
And then, alas, I woke up.
And so I am back to this semiannual (or is it annual?!) jockeying for the leadership of this amazing, challenging, frustrating, inspiring – and always surprising – country of ours, where we cannot figure out how to navigate the ubiquitous traffic circles that dot our streets, yet we can send a spaceship to the moon.
Like all of you out there, I am entertained and enthralled by the electioneering going on, alternately energized and enraged by what is happening.
As always, the candidates speak righteously about You, and about the big U – Unity. They declare, in raised voices and high-minded rhetoric, that they will heal the ills of our society, work for our best interests and unite the fragmented pieces of our public.
But they do this primarily by attacking their opponents – sometimes viciously, as the once silent Gen. Gantz recently did, on some rather foolish advice from his advisers, to his own detriment. Which naturally sparked the prime minister to launch into his own blistering critique of his opponents, forcing all of us to choose sides and confirm our own grievances. Not exactly the ideal recipe for unity.
The great minds in the previous government(s) thought they could bring about unity by raising the electoral threshold to 3.25% (it originally was just 1%). This, they reasoned, would eliminate the smaller, special-interest parties and strengthen the larger ones, since a party would now need a minimum of four mandates to enter the Knesset.
The result, however, was quite different; the small groups rushed to combine with other small groups, and then pledged to join one of the big blocs, thus perpetuating the very same system that has plagued us from independence. Once again, the big parties would be beholden – if not held hostage – to the narrow, partisan agendas of the various mini-parties.
Most of the vitriol has been spewed against Otzma Yehudit, accusing it of racism, and raising the dreaded specter of Kahanism. But has anyone actually heard racist statements from the party? Is it racist to declare Israel a Jewish state and demand that all its citizens pledge allegiance to the flag? Is it wrong to want to rid Israel of the terrorists and their supporters, who openly threaten our way of life?
And if we are condemning, should we not save a few choice barbs for Meretz, which despicably joined together with the Arabs as the only parties to vote against the “pay for slay” bill, which deducts from the Palestinians the monies they pay to those who kill Jews?
I was particularly appalled by the outrageous comments of Rabbi Benny Lau, who compared Otzma Yehudit, and by extension Bayit Yehudi, to the Nazis. Really? Is anyone actually proposing that we systematically round up every Arab in the country and shoot or gas them, as did the Nazis? Is anyone here in favor of erecting death camps? As the son-in-law of an Auschwitz survivor, I take extreme objection to anyone who demeans the victims of the Shoah by using such foolish – and ignorant – comparisons.
I SUGGEST we, rather, use our energies to ask relevant, hard questions to the candidates about the pressing issues of the nation, and demand answers. What does your party stand for, and what are your “redlines?” What are your views on defense? What inspired ideas do you have for the economy and education? How will you promote aliyah and solve our traffic problems? What will you do for the poorer, less-connected elements of society? Please: Cut the fluff and give us the facts.
We have two crucial concerns on the horizon, and I want to know where you, the candidates, stand on them.
One is the soon-to-be-released Trump peace plan. Which concessions are you prepared to accept and which will you reject? Will you allow a Palestinian state to be erected on our border? Will you agree to divide Jerusalem? Will you dismantle settlements, and if so, which ones? Will you accede to the right of return, or the mass release of terrorist prisoners?
Even if the Palestinians reject all compromise – as they say they will and always do – I would not go on record as agreeing to anything and everything just because we want to appear as “the good guys” – it will surely come back to haunt us in the future.
Then there is the impending crisis of army service vs yeshiva study, which elicited this new election in the first place. What will you do when push finally comes to shove, when the courts order general conscription for yeshiva students, and they vow to go to jail – or even commit mass suicide – rather than comply? Will you enforce the law, even if means jailing a quarter of a million Jews? Or will you seek a compromise, and if so, what is it?
Space travel is fanciful and fabulous. But right here, on the ground, is where we live, and we need a clear view of your platforms and positions. The mudslinging and clever slogans make for good television, but they don’t help us get to where we need to go as a nation. It’s time to stand tall and speak the truth – not in blue and white, but in black and white.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.
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