Israel will be replaced by a halachic state -opinion

A full right-wing government? Far from it. The incoming government will change the face of the State of Israel.

 United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022. (photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)
United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022.
(photo credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

The emerging coalition agreements will damage the standing of the legal system, erode women’s and LGBTQ rights, undermine the war against the delegitimization of Israel, harm the country’s relations with the Diaspora, among other things by changing the Law of Return, while the agreements also include a plethora of dangerous, misogynist demands that will set us back light years from the path envisioned by the visionary seer of the State of Israel, Theodor Herzl.

The religious priests that Herzl sought to leave in their temple are the ones who are running the coalition negotiations, and when a coalition is formed it will be they who chart Israel’s new path. 

The reality being dictated is one where a Zionist democratic state will be replaced by a halachic state. To grasp the depth of events, we must look at what has happened over the past month.

“Soccer on Shabbat is not sportsmanlike and not Jewish.”

MK Bezalel Smotrich

A changing reality

The dust has yet to fully settle from the fifth round of general elections in four years, but the opening shots tracing the reality that lies ahead have already been fired.

The first to appear on the political field was Religious Zionist Party chairman Bezalel Smotrich, who protested in a letter to the chairman of the Israel Football Association the fact that games are held on the Sabbath.

 United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) United Torah Judaism leader Yitzhak Goldknopf and Otzma Yehudit chair Itamar Ben-Gvir with MKs from the likely coalition, November 21, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

“Soccer on Shabbat is not sportsmanlike and not Jewish,” wrote Smotrich, sparking a firestorm of controversy, and with it, the new political era.

Of course, the story is not about soccer, but rather, the character of the State of Israel and the future of its residents – all of us. To understand matters comprehensively, we must get back to basics regarding Herzl’s vision for the State of the Jews.

In his book, The Jewish State, Herzl laid out how he saw the power structure, society, economy, defense, and the religion-state axis in the future Jewish entity.

“Will we allow the priests of our religion to govern us? No! While faith is something that unites us, we must seek out with force wisdom and sciences. And therefore, we will surpass all tricks by our priests who will say they should govern us, because we will know to imprison them in the godly temple,” he wrote.

In prophetic text, Herzl noted, “But in regards to the affairs of state, whose honor they will seek, they have no business, to ensure that they do not bring disgrace from home and abroad on it.”

“Will we allow the priests of our religion to govern us? No!"

Theodor Herzl

The contribution of Herzl’s vision to the state that was eventually established is undeniable, but Israel’s contemporary reality is one in which ultra-Orthodox institutions receive state budgets but leave Herzl and the heads of the Zionist movement out of the classroom curriculum.

Religious priests managing our lives

In an era in which it is permissible to rewrite history and to forget where we came from and where we are headed, it is also possible to change course and to change the existing political structure.

Examples of how this is so are piling up rapidly: Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef has demanded that coalition negotiations include a clause that overrides the rulings of the Supreme Court, and an increase in budgets for yeshiva students; meetings have been held in the home of Rabbi Haim Druckman to strengthen the political power of his disciple Smotrich, and the rabbis have supported his demand to be made defense minister and have intervened in Israel’s defense policies. When the demand to make Smotrich defense minister failed, they evolved into a new demand that he be appointed finance minister. 

Add to this the dangerous vision of Rabbi Zvi Thau, one of the spiritual leaders of the Noam faction of the Religious Zionist list, which has already closed a deal with Netanyahu that will make Noam leader Avi Maoz a deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office where he will be able to exercise his master’s vision. 

And then there is the Hassidic Admor of Gur who instructs United Torah Judaism chief Yitzhak Goldknopf to appoint one of the rabbi’s disciples to be director-general of the Construction and Housing Ministry, which Goldknopf is set to lead.

 Rabbi Zvi Thau attends the ''Yeshivot March'' to call for the strengthening of Jewish identity in the State of Israel against the Conversion Law and Kashrut Law on January 30, 2022 in Jerusalem. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) Rabbi Zvi Thau attends the ''Yeshivot March'' to call for the strengthening of Jewish identity in the State of Israel against the Conversion Law and Kashrut Law on January 30, 2022 in Jerusalem. (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Religious priests are those who manage our lives, and the above is just a partial list of recent examples. UTJ chairman Moshe Gafni declared at an election event that “without a clause to override the Supreme Court, a government will not rise,” receiving thunderous cheers from those present, and who understand well the significance of the rally.

A day after that event was held, media reports carried news of a series of demands made by Shas, including the enshrining of a draft exemption law, demands that Jewish conversion be left in the hand of the Chief Rabbinate, and allocations for yeshiva students in the state budget, as well as bringing ultra-Orthodox education budgets in line with those of secular education programs, doubling stipends for married yeshiva students, and granting yeshiva students discount fares on public transport similar to those received by university students.

But if we are really fighting for equality, perhaps it is time to distribute stipends to university students too. They, after all, serve in the military, and after completing their degree will return the money to the state through the taxes they pay when they head out to work and help carry the economic burden?

Meanwhile, the Religious Zionist Party and the ultra-Orthodox parties are demanding a cancellation of the grandchild clause in the Law of Return, a reform branded by rabbis as a special opportunity to “fix a miserable law,” according to a letter sent by Chabad Rabbi Yitzchak Yehuda Yaroslavsky. He apparently forgot that the law is the essence of Zionism.

Add to this the demand for gender separation in public events paid for by the taxpayer (let’s not forget who is paying most of these taxes?) and the misogynistic remarks made by Maoz and his friends, as well as comments on the LGBTQ community, female IDF service, changes in the content taught at schools, and the call to cancel the gender adviser position to the IDF chief of staff (with the justification that the role injects foreign values to the IDF). A full right-wing government? Far from it. And darkness came over the land.

 Benjamin Netanyahu and Avi Maoz meet ahead of coalition negotiations. (credit: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON) Benjamin Netanyahu and Avi Maoz meet ahead of coalition negotiations. (credit: LIKUD SPOKESPERSON)

The incoming government could change the face of the State of Israel. There will be no more checks and balances, and the vision of a Zionist state will slip away into the distance. 

Claims about this being the “will of the people” are unconvincing. In Iran in the 1970s, most of the people supported the revolution – but no one told them that sometimes it’s better to be careful what you wish for.

The writer is a publishing expert at The MirYam Institute. She served as a Knesset member in the 24th Knesset. She has served as a deputy local council head in Kiryat Tivon, and has worked as a journalist and as a senior lecturer in academic institutions for 24 years.