‘When we lose touch with our mutual level of hatred, we also give up responsibility for our common future,” writes author Gary Shteygart in his book Super Sad True Love Story. He continues, writing, “It seems to me that when the dust finally settles and the dual-party structure becomes part of history, then we will all end up living in small units that disagree with each other. I don’t know what we’ll call them – perhaps we’ll refer to them as political parties, military councils or city-states but that’s the way it will be and this time we won’t screw it up.”
Between the relative indifference of those on the Right and the feeling of annihilation of those on the Left, Israel could pay a heavy price for legislation that is not at all clear and will last very long. In the meantime, we are experiencing existential threats in the background in the form of a constitutional crisis between the government and the courts, and between the citizens and themselves. Fortunately, the people who support the legal reform have yet to physically stand up against the people who have been protesting the reform, which could drag us into a de facto civil war.
In times like these, we must not outright dismiss the possibility that a regime based on fear and terror will become the ruling power in Israel and therefore the points of agreement are extremely important and will keep us strong. What we need now is to hold a conversation and the sooner the better.
First of all, we need to make something clear: Nothing bad will happen if these discussions take place at the same time that these legal changes are being made. Just as nothing will be damaged if the legal changes are frozen so that negotiations can be held. The call for holding talks, which was made a few days ago at the end of a tumultuous day of protests, is a good start and yet the hunkering down seen on both sides is still worrisome.
In light of the strengthening of the protests and the increased number of letters calling for strikes in the public sector, the time has come for Defense Minister Yoav Gallant to take charge as the responsible adult in the Legal Reform Coalition. As the person in charge who is perhaps the only individual up until now that has support from civilians across the board, the defense minister must demand that his fellow coalition partners immediately enter into talks with the opposition in an effort to reach an agreement.
Otherwise, IDF soldiers and leaders of the defense establishment will soon find themselves having to decide who they abide by: Israel’s government or Israel’s Supreme Court. Will they have to choose between carrying out a lifesaving military operation or following an order that is clearly illegal and that has a black flag waving over it? In either event, the security of the State of Israel is at stake.
GALLANT CAN do us the honor of actually noticing what is happening among Israel’s police force, which is already dealing with a nationalistic defense minister who is energetic and decisive and a police commissioner who is trying with all his might to back his commanders in the field.
In light of the growing public support of MK Benny Gantz, head of the National Unity Party, and following the rift between the heads of the opposition parties, some of whom have become even more radical in their stance and refused to enter into discussions until the legal processes have been frozen, Gantz was correct when he opened up his own channel for communication.
Gantz understands that the current happenings are no longer just taking place in the media and on social media and that the struggle taking place out in the real world is upending the entire country. He has raised the gauntlet, reached out to the prime minister requesting to meet with him and made it known that he is the one with a sane voice of logic who is willing to act as a bridge to bring the two sides together so that we can reach a compromise.
In light of the growing violence, which could at any moment escalate to the point of no return and the growing feeling of anarchy and calls for civil rebellion, the head of the opposition, MK Yair Lapid, must leave his ego on the wayside and join the conversation. Yes, even if the price is holding discussions while under fire from the impending storm of the advancing legal reforms. This is not the time to bring the coalition down to its knees and certainly not as a way to win public support. His supporters, along with others, will forgive him the moment he signs on the points of agreement.
Even if he does not succeed, Lapid will have been boosted up to the same level as Gantz just for trying. Lapid is being offered a singular opportunity to truly become a leader that represents a wide range of the public. It would be a real shame if instead he is remembered as one who encouraged people to protest.
In light of the overwhelming disinterest in his proposal, President Isaac (Bougie) Herzog must repeat his call for conversation between the two sides and also find a way to calm things down. Many people on both sides support Herzog’s proposal and view it as an important step that could help calm the flames.
However, all of these individuals are waiting for their rivals to be the ones to make the first move. Herzog, in his position as Israel’s number one citizen, should announce the date of another meeting and if one of the sides fails to show up, they shall be branded as having been the ones to refuse to participate in the talks.
Netanyahu must take responsibility
IN LIGHT of the polarization that has taken over, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must stand up, get himself together and actually do something. Netanyahu perfectly understands the power of the crisis that is brewing and it appears as if he is losing control of his right-wing coalition.
Although some parts of the legal reforms could be beneficial for him in his legal battles, as the most powerful person in Israel, he is obligated to make it clear to his ministers who are all riled up that there is another way. That it would be okay to freeze the progression of the legal proceedings for a few days in order to open up lines of communication with the other side and sit together until they all have smoke coming out of their ears.
Some people have been heard saying that Netanyahu views himself as a modern-day Moses and that he aspires to leave an extraordinary political and economic heritage behind him. He surely has no desire for being remembered in the history books as the person who was at the helm when Israeli society was experiencing the most intense widening of the gap and when voter trust in their politicians reached an all-time low.
Last week, the Torah portion that was read in synagogues all around the world, was Parashat Tetzaveh. At the outset, God instructs Moses – whose name surprisingly is not mentioned – to establish a ner tamid, an eternal light, to shine in the sanctuary built in the desert. Subsequently, God commands him to prepare the Kohanim (the High Priests) who serve in the sanctuary to bless them. The second section of the Torah portion deals with the sacrifices that are made for the dedication of the sanctuary. This coming week, we will hear the story of the Golden Calf.
As we stand at the edge of the precipice, just moments away from sliding down into the depths of despair, I still believe that Israel will remain a democracy. The question is how many groups will Israeli society be separated into and will the country succeed in healing from the rift that may soon reach the point from which it will not be able to heal?
Let us continue the Purim spirit for a few more moments and embrace the holiday motif of ve’nahafochu (doing the opposite) and sit down and talk with each other. May we find a way to climb up and out of the mire we’re stuck in and take the first step onto a new path for all of our sakes.
The writer is the co-editor-in-chief of Maariv.