The mourners were mourning when the deceased emerged at the door. “My eulogies,” said consensus, “were premature.”
At this writing, with communities by the Gazan border evacuated ahead of major rocket attacks, a vast majority of Israelis fully back the order to strike three leaders of Islamic Jihad.
The terror group that targets citizens and says plainly it’s dedicated to Israel’s destruction deserves to be targeted any day, let alone after firing 100 missiles at us last week. That is why, after hearing Hamas’s response that the IDF’s raid was “an abominable crime,” most Israelis shrugged and said wryly: “wow.”
This is before recalling that one of the raid’s targets, Jihad al-Ghannam, masterminded the 2004 attack in which two gunmen slew, at close range, pregnant social worker Tali Hatuel and her four daughters – Hila (11), Hadar (nine), Roni (seven) and Merav (two).
How, asks the Israeli consensus, does killing such a mass murderer constitute the “abominable crime” of which Hamas is talking? Right, some of his relatives were killed with him, but that’s a problem by other people’s moral scales. By the jihadist scale, however, why would what this man did to other people’s families be less criminal than what happened to his?
This consensus is why opposition leaders Yair Lapid and Benny Gantz responded to the attack with unequivocal support. That is also why hotels and families throughout the country volunteered to host families in Gaza’s firing range. Such solidarity is part of the Israeli consensus, which in fact is much bigger than one momentary situation.YES, ISRAEL is split on many issues. Which democracy isn’t? However, on all major issues there are foundational agreements among the vast majority of Israelis, and these agreements are broader and stronger than recent months’ attack on the consensus suggests.
On foreign affairs, most Israelis agree that when our neighbors want peace, we should compromise, as we did with Egypt; and when they want war, we should fight, as we did Tuesday.
Socially, most Israelis want all Israelis to have equal rights and also equal duties.
Religiously, most Israelis want freedom of conscience and a measure of Jewishness in our public sphere.
Economically, most Israelis want free markets and low taxes, and also generosity toward the underprivileged, the poor, the handicapped, the elderly and the ill.
Medically, most Israelis want universal healthcare through state-managed payments to competing nonprofits.
Educationally, most Israelis want to finance schools and universities accessible to all, with free tuition up to age 18, and subsidized tuition for higher education.
This may all sound a bit wishy-washy to the minority that lives to the right and left of this consensus, a minority that is often fanatic and thus hostile to the very idea of compromise. But the fact is that whether they like it or not, this middle ground is where most Israelis are.
It is also where most Israeli governments have been, except two times when the consensus was abandoned – once by Labor and once by Likud – before returning for a third time this year, with a caveat. Now the consensus was not merely abandoned, it was targeted.
Targeting the Israeli consensus
THE CONSENSUS was abandoned by Likud in 1982, when it went to a controversial war in Lebanon; and by Labor in 1993, when it went to a controversial peace in Oslo.
Still, while both moves lacked broad support, the narrow majority behind them did not try to change the rules of the game. Now there is such an effort, and it transcends the quest to castrate the judiciary, as the theoretical ruling party, Likud, outsources to fringe parties the wheels of domestic policy.
Never in Israel’s 75 years did its government hand the Treasury to a sectarian party. Occasionally, the finance minister was the leader of a small party, like Yigal Hurvitz (Ometz ) in 1980 or Moshe Kahlon (Kulanu) last decade, but they did not represent a communal constituency with its own towns, schools, cultural institutions and sprawling empire of social charities and ideological nonprofits.
The current finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, does represent such a community, the ultra-nationalists, and is also eyeing voters from the other sectarian juggernaut, ultra-Orthodoxy. The results of this anomaly became clear this week, when it emerged that the next bi-annual budget allocation for sectarian causes will soar nearly tenfold, from NIS 1.4 billion to NIS 12.5 billion.
This treasurer’s sectarian favoritism, at the expense of the broad majority, coincides with his ignorance of the global economy in which he is supposed to maneuver. Responding to rating agency Moody’s downgrading of Israel’s credit outlook in the wake of the judicial mayhem, in which he is a key player, Smotrich said the rating agency “does not know Israeli resilience.”
Any resident of the financial world knows that when the rating agencies criticize you, you don’t debate them – you pull your act together. But Smotrich is not a man of the world and doesn’t even represent his society. He represents a community, which is why what sprawls beyond it is to him an enigma at best, an enemy at worst.
The same goes for Housing Minister Yitzhak Goldknopf, who is focused on housing the ultra-Orthodox minority and has yet to present a plan for treating the rest of Israel’s housing crisis.
This is before considering Likud’s outsourcing of internal security to Itamar Ben-Gvir, a felon who never served in the army and is now attempting to create, through his agency, his own militia.
This, in brief, is the shape of the siege we face – the fringes’ siege on the Israeli center and the Zionist consensus, the consensus that this winter set out to end its abuse, the consensus that this week reminded its mourners that their eulogies have been premature.www.MiddleIsrael.net
The writer, a Hartman Institute fellow, is the author of the bestselling Mitzad Ha’ivelet Ha’yehudi (The Jewish March of Folly, Yediot Sefarim, 2019), a revisionist history of the Jewish people’s political leadership.