In Plain Language: A tale of two countries

Had just a handful more seats swung the other way in this election, the results would have been drastically different.

By
May 14, 2015 17:01
Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu . (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

 
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Our new government had barely been finalized before the naysayers, the prophets of doom and the boo-birds began their relentless sniping, telling us what a terrible coalition had been formed, how short its tenure will be, what disasters await us, blah, blah, blah.

Rather than congratulate the victors and accept their defeat with dignity – perhaps even resigning from their posts, as did the UK’s David Miliband (Labor), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrats) and Nigel Farage (UK Independence Party), following their own defeat in this past week’s British elections – the opposition promised to do everything it could to topple the government and bring about new, half-a-billion-shekel elections.

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Reaching new heights of hyperbole, Zionist Union co-leader Isaac Herzog called the coalition “dangerous to the public”; former Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman said it represented an “existentialist threat, on par with Iran”; and former foreign minister Avigdor Liberman launched a personal, invective-filled tirade against his former boss, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Yet even while dining on a diet of sour grapes and questioning the composition of the coalition, the opposition was beset by intense squabbling among themselves. Former Labor Party leader Shelly Yacimovich called for Zionist Union co-leader Tzipi Livni to be dismissed from her position; Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid accused the Zionist Union of not doing enough to prevent the expansion of ministers in the new government; and others wondered aloud how the right-wing Liberman and far-left-wing Meretz could sit together around any table.

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It’s a wonder they had any time or energy left to criticize the other side.

Israel’s 20th Knesset, to be sure, has its share of challenges ahead of it. Its razor-thin majority of just 61 seats is a double-edged sword: On the one hand, any of its five members can threaten to bolt the coalition and bring down the government. On the other hand, it is reasonably homogeneous, without wide philosophical differences.

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Yet while it is of one mind on foreign policy issues, and receptive to Kulanu’s leadership on domestic affairs, it must still struggle with finding a consensus on religious matters – such as conversion and universal conscription – as well as defining a strategy for dealing with the Palestinian problem.

Had just a handful more seats swung the other way in this election, the results would have been drastically different.

This is proof positive that Israel, alas, is a divided country. But I believe this is part of our growth as a nation.

Consider where the US was when it was 70 years old. In 1850, America was just beginning to “feel its oats.” The expansion of the railroads was enabling the populace to move westward, out of the east coast, and huge swaths of land west of the Mississippi were fast being acquired and developed. Industrialization was opening up rich new markets, and immigration was bringing millions of Europeans to the Land of Liberty.

But all was not completely rosy. The country was still bitterly divided over numerous issues, states’ rights and slavery chief among them. Just a decade later, the bloodiest war in American history would break out, leaving vast destruction and three-quarters of a million dead, including 8 percent of all white males aged 13 to 43.

It would take many more years for the nation to be reconstructed, beginning its ascension towards becoming the preeminent world power.

In fact, many of the country’s endemic problems – such as the full integration of its black minority, and strife between the liberal and conservative mind-sets – still linger on, plaguing America’s progress.

The modern State of Israel, let us not forget, is still a very young country, still very much a work in progress. We are yet experiencing the pangs of our birth, struggling to get our bearings and map out our course of action. This has been made a much more formidable task by kibbutz galuyot, the massive integration of Diaspora Jewry – much of it poor and uneducated – as well as an unending, perpetual war that has been waged against us by hostile neighbors since our independence.

Despite those obstacles, we have done a magnificent job – miraculous would be a better word – of building a viable, prosperous infrastructure that can adequately sustain the entire House of Israel; our ultimate goal.

As I look out at America and Israel – the two homes in which I have lived my life – I see two splendid societies that are going in opposite directions.

America, I fear, is losing its way. It no longer wishes to be the beacon of light, the tall and proud Statue of Liberty that beckons the world to embrace democracy, freedom and the pursuit of happiness. It no longer wants the responsibility of being the moral voice for the planet, the model for all others to follow.

Under the guise of preaching diversity and respect for other cultures, it engages in isolationism and moral equivalence, and in doing so flashes a green light for evil to flourish and horrendous excesses to be perpetrated on helpless masses of civilians around the globe.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the American posture towards Iran.

Leaving aside the nuclear issue for a moment, how can the US show any civility, any rapprochement towards the cruel and calculating Islamic state? Iran represents the worst the world has to offer, the exact opposite of all the principles for which America stands – or once stood for. Tehran suppresses all human rights, degrades women, preaches violence, and thirsts for world domination and the annihilation of the West and Western values.

America should be fighting these monsters with every ounce of its strength, doing all in its power to degrade and demolish this evil society.

Instead, incredibly, Washington is propping it up, revitalizing Iran’s economy and handing it the tools with which to carry out its insidious plans.

This is not the America in which I grew up. Sadly, unless something drastic happens, I don’t see it changing for the better either.

And that is precisely why we here in Israel must not lose our way. We must take the lead and be the voice of sanity, of clarity in a topsy-turvy world. We must continue to build our state, to gather in all the Jews of the world – including those living in blissful ignorance – to fight the good fight against the forces of hate, racism and anti-Semitism.

This struggle begins with uniting our own people, standing behind our elected government and understanding what Abraham Lincoln so rightly proclaimed: A house divided against itself cannot stand. 

The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana; jocmtv@ netvision.net.il.

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