Last Sunday, two brothers, Hallel and Yagel Yaniv, were ambushed in Huwara. A photo from their funeral shows mourners, sitting cross-legged by their graves, arms outstretched, crying, overwhelmed, but enveloped by other mourners in love and grief. “I sent my two children to the army. We did not use it as a political tool,” their mother Esti cried. “We want unity. We must not harm the army.”
That night, revenge-seeking Jews rioted in Huwara, harming Israel, including the army. Clearly, governmental goonatics who rant about wiping out Palestinians, emboldened these hoodlums. But millions of Israelis keep insisting: those thugs aren’t us. The real Israel appears in a second photo, showing two officers escorting a Palestinian woman from her burning home. When vigilantes attack innocent Palestinians, we don’t distribute sweets; instead, our soldiers save them.
Shame on politicians who disrespect Esti’s unity cry – and our soldiers’ heroism. Shame on anyone who acts violently – or confuses peaceful protesters with rampaging outlaws, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu does. And shame on anyone who politicizes the army by refusing to serve, even if they detest the reforms – which haven’t passed yet.
Two-thirds of Israelis want the judicial reforms stopped or delayed. When asked what this government should do – 45% said lower living costs, 19% said heal social rifts, 17% said improve security. Only 8% mentioned judicial reform.
This hari-kari government’s totalitarian commitment to the reform is exacerbating Israelis’ biggest problems: the economy is tanking, social divisions are growing, and the security situation is worsening. No wonder voters are abandoning Likud.
In politics, perception becomes reality. If millions of Israelis are worried – that’s worrisome. We can debate the reform endlessly, but if it passes as is, our government will have given Israel a massive, unnecessary, self-inflicted wound – delighting our enemies. We’re already bleeding credibility, stability, economic strength and military deterrence. It must stop… now!
With millions begging the coalition to slow the reform, support President Isaac Herzog, take a partial victory – not “The” reforms – it’s time to adjust, declare victory, and address more pressing problems.
This “crisis” remains maddening because mature leaders – the grand-old Netanyahu, not this petty, simpering, divisive, phantom PM – could forge a middle path. Most Israelis will accept some Supreme Court-Knesset rebalancing. They just fear the whole package, justifiably. We need a solution – yesterday.
DAILY, DIVISIONS worsen, the mood blackens, hurts accumulate – and our stress soars. Each week adds scars: the opposition will long remember the protester who lost an ear to the police stun grenade; Bibistas will long remember the mobbing outside Sarah Netanyahu’s hairdresser – which some, offensively, called “a lynch.”
Last week, four MKs finally stood for unity.
The Likud’s Yuli Edelstein and Danny Danon joined the National Union’s Gadi Eisenkot and Chili Tropper to champion “an agreement… immediately.” These muscular moderate represent different dimensions of Zionist heroism: Edelstein challenged the KGB as a Prisoner of Zion; Danon confronted Bash-Israel-Firsters as UN Ambassador; Eisenkot fought lethal enemies in a 31-year military career, and, after serving in Duvdevan, Tropper tackled Israel’s social and educational problems. Each has the courage to heal us.
This Sunday, as Edelstein endorsed negotiations and a slow-down, the Ein Prat Academy for Leadership, along with Edelstein and Tropper, pitched an “Agreement Tent” – may a million moderates overrun it! Note how little coverage these moderate initiatives receive – and note how little coverage Avi Maoz’s resignation got. Both Left and Right are over-invested in telling a story of a polarized Israel, ignoring any moderates or nuances.
And where are the other MKs? Bar-Ilan University political scientist, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, notes that eight MKs could change everything: “Two more opposition members and two more coalition members joining the four would press other MKs to accept a compromise solution because no other plan would have a majority.”
“Two more opposition members and two more coalition members joining the four would press other MKs to accept a compromise solution because no other plan would have a majority.”Gerald Steinberg
True. Normally, it’s easier to get Netanya mobsters to betray their bosses than to get MKs to defy theirs. But MKs pledge “allegiance to the State of Israel” not their parties. Likudniks must save Netanyahu from himself – and Israel from him. Netanyahu and his coalition-captors keep dividing us, demoralizing Zionists everywhere.
Meanwhile, opposition members must save Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid from himself. Defying Herzog’s negotiation invitations, Lapid seems too jazzed by the protests. Hysterics keep trashing Israel’s economy, democracy and society. Americans learned in Vietnam that you can’t save the village by burning it down.
Cowed by party discipline, Israeli politicians also lack a constituent-service ethos. Serving party bosses, they fear their Central Committees, not the people. Israel remains a small kibbutz. Anyone who knows any MKs – contact them and demand that they start bridge-building. And anyone with an email, social media account, or phone – contact some MKs, demanding the same. We moderates must start flexing our muscles and insist that our leaders start leading.
Too many politicians keep acting like partisan devils, fouling the atmosphere by spewing poison. For Purim, why not put down their political pitchforks and dress up like grownups – or like Yuli, Danny, Gadi, Chili – or Bougie?
Let them consider this tale of two photos. Every MK who knows a terror victim – meaning most MKs – should, in the Yaniv family’s name and others’, strive for unity, immediately. And every MK who has served or knows someone who serves, which means most MKs, should – in our soldier-heroes’ names, do what they did for Israel when in uniform. Be strong and of good courage. Put personal considerations and career ambitions aside. Put partisanship on mute. And put Israel first.
The writer is a distinguished scholar of North American history at McGill University, and the author of nine books on American history and four on Zionism. He is the editor of the new Theodor Herzl: Zionist Writings, the inaugural publication of The Library of the Jewish People (www.theljp.org).