A spate of anti-Semitic attacks triggered by the Gaza conflict has rattled French Jews.
(photo credit: PHILIPPE WOJAZER / REUTERS)
We, as a country, are distracted once again.
The horrific security situation has distracted us from domestic issues which may not lead to loss of life, but nevertheless endanger the survival of our country no less than some of our security challenges.
The ultra-Orthodox community has been in the midst of a massive shift toward integrating into Israeli society. Since the passage of the historic draft law in March 2014, IDF enlistment is up 40 percent in the haredi sector – and the enlistment goals set forth by the law have even been surpassed! Haredi employment has risen by 300 percent. Haredi schools in large numbers have been embracing math and English curricula and there are now 10,000 ultra-Orthodox students in institutions of higher education.
The integration is happening – in universities, in the army/ national service, and in the workforce. This development is phenomenal. It means that this population of Israelis – which thank God has grown to become a tenth of the population of our country – will not remain isolated and separated from Israeli society, looking 10 or 20 years down the road.
Yet now, of all times, the haredi political leadership is seeking to turn the clock back, by linking passage of the state budget to overturning the legislation.
Overturn the legislation? How can any member of the Likud party vote to nullify legislation which its chairman, Prime Minister Netanyahu, voted in favor of four times, and a law about which Likud Minister Miri Regev declared: “It is an honor for us that the government of Israel led by the Likud movement is the one that is signed on a law which corrects a historic injustice. The time has come for all citizens of the country to enlist in the IDF or perform national service because the law is the law. I support drafting haredim into the army. We all took the lead on this together, and all have an interest in the haredim and other groups enlisting in the army or performing national service.”
How can any member of the Bayit Yehudi party vote to nullify a measure which their chairman, Education Minister Naftali Bennett, also voted in favor of four times, after stating publicly that the legislation was “good for the Nation of Israel as a whole, and for the haredim in particular?” How can Kulanu MKs such as Michael Oren and Rachel Azaria – who certainly believe that haredim need to be integrated into Israeli society and serve in the IDF – vote to change the legislation? I hope that the tragic situation of the unsafe streets of Israel won’t allow this “turning back the clock,” as the ultra-Orthodox parties have called it.
Because allowing the haredi political leadership to flex their muscles and do anything to stop the progress that has been made will also be tragic – for our entire nation, and especially the ultra-Orthodox population.
The sad part is that the ultra-Orthodox parties are bluffing when they say they won’t support the budget if the draft legislation is not changed.
Not voting for the budget means that we go to elections? Does anyone really believe that the ultra-Orthodox parties will allow Israel to go to early elections, and risk giving up their plush positions and billions of shekels which they are being given in this new budget? We can only hope and pray that someone – perhaps Ministers Bennett or Regev, MK Oren, or MK Azaria – will have the courage to vote against the measure, which will prevent its passage because of the coalition’s one-mandate majority.
Our distraction with the security situation has also allowed another domestic problem to slip below the radar screen: The fiasco with Arye Deri and the Economy Ministry would be the talk of the town and the lead news story, if we weren’t subject to this current wave of terrorism.
This is a story of corruption at the highest of levels, demonstrating the lowest level of Israeli political leadership and governance.
The anti-trust commissioner ruled that the gas deal between Israel and the energy development companies is a monopoly.
The economy minister is the only person empowered to circumvent that ruling. But Arye Deri refuses to do so. His refusal is not because he is against the deal. In fact, he has voted in favor of it. Rather, it is because he ran in the elections on a platform of helping the weakest in society, and his signature approving this gas deal would appear as if he turned his back on his voters.
So in order to deal with this ridiculous situation, the prime minister asked Deri to step down as economy minister so that he, the prime minister, can take over that ministry and circumvent the monopoly ruling.
But Deri is no sucker, and negotiations were held to determine what rewards Deri would like in order to move aside.
This is corruption playing out right in front of us! One minister does not want to exercise his power because it will look bad to his voters – even though he agrees with it! – so now the prime minister has to buy him off with all kinds of goodies to get him to move aside and let the prime minister exercise that power instead? I can only hope that the horrific situation in our streets will not allow us to let this corruption – which eats away at our national soul – pass unnoticed.
There are many other domestic issues – such as the plight of the agunot “anchored women,” the suffering of people who want to convert but are being pushed away, ethnic discrimination in schools – which are being overshadowed and going almost unnoticed because of the security situation.
Yet even the security situation has revealed a crisis of morality, as we saw in Rishon Lezion when passersby jumped over a stabbed 70-year-old grandmother to join the mob pursuing and attacking the terrorist.
Security is important. We have to survive. But we cannot forget that we also must be engaged in building a state and a society worthy of securing and survival.
The writer was a member of the 19th Knesset and currently serves as the director of Anglo and Diaspora Affairs for the Yesh Atid party and as a political commentator for i24 News.