Based on the ease with which new alliances were formed this year on crucial issues, we may be heading into an era of Israel 3.0
sraeli politics may be a mess, but at least it’s a simple mess. After three years of deadlock, most people can recite the salient facts in their sleep.
Netanyahu can’t muster 61 Knesset seats, but continues to dominate the Right; the Left can only take power aided by disgruntled Right-wingers. So as long as the stalemate continues, elections will be policy-free, and revolve around one choice: Yes, Bibi or No, Bibi.
But look beyond these truisms, and what seems like the country’s irrational descent into personality-driven politics could mask a new cultural fault line. Call it Israel 3.0, in which the split over Bibi masks a choice between universalist, increasingly progressive values on one side and a focus on conservative values and Jewish identity on the other.
In his strikingly titled Catch-67, a book about the Gordian knot that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Micah Goodman charts the evolution of the first two iterations of the Left-Right divide.
Ben Gurion’s left, he says, was motivated by socialism and saw a Jewish state as the perfect place to implement Marx’s vision. But in the wake of the Six Day War, and as the ills of socialism became increasingly clear, the Israeli Left was spared irrelevance by transforming into a peace movement.
In parallel, the Right underwent a mirror-image transformation.
Vladimir Jabotinsky, father of Israel’s right, had championed a secular, liberal nationalism. Then the Six Day War victory birthed a faith-driven settlement movement that made the serugim the new face of Israel’s frontier spirit, and the First Intifada persuaded secular nationalists that the Palestinians weren’t going anywhere.
“Those on the Right,” says Goodman succinctly, “began life as liberals, developed into messianists, and now limp along thinking mostly about security. Those on the left arose as socialists, then dreamed of peace, and now focus on human rights and the evils of occupation.”
But while the idea of a Left and Right coasting along on the fumes of concepts past may well be true of the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the last year has shown that when it comes to ideological divides, there may be a new kid on the block.
Precisely because Mideast peace is a “Catch-67” and Oslo is so demonstrably dead, Israelis have moved on to issues closer to their daily lives.
Over the year of the coalition’s lifespan, it was hard to miss that on many issues such as giyur and public Shabbos observance, anti-Bibi right-wingers felt more at home with the positions emanating from the Left than with the line espoused by the Bibi bloc.
That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Bennett’s decision to cut ties with his National-Religious rabbis was because he’s fundamentally a liberal, who sees no problem with legitimizing the Reform movement.
For all Gideon Saar’s right-wing credentials, he’s a bourgeois Tel Avivian, who is uneasy with the increasingly populist, traditionalist orientation of the Likud, typified by politicians like David Amsalem.
Avigdor Lieberman may be motivated by animus for Bibi, but his contempt for the “messianic” religious from the chareidim to Bezalel Smotrich is very real.
Taken together, this could mean that it wasn’t just a marriage of political convenience that held together the coalition for a year, but because on the explosive issues of religion and Jewish identity, many on the liberal right see eye to eye with the Left.
Put simply, the old-style urbane Likud of people like Benny Begin can’t stomach the strident new traditional Right of MKs like Miri Regev.
Does that amount to a new politics? As the country heads to the polls again, with Yair Lapid as interim prime minister, that assessment is premature.
Convergence between the Left and liberal-Right over the Jewishness of Israel’s public sphere is very real, but it may not prove enough common ground to redraw the political map.
A Bibi victory — or indeed another loss that leads to his exit from politics — may restore the familiar Left-Right divide.
Or it may not. Based on the ease with which new alliances were formed this year on crucial issues of identity and liberalism, we may be heading into an era of Israel 3.0.
No Mojo for BoJo
When Boris Johnson won a landslide in 2019, he hoped — in the words of his hero Winston Churchill — that the election was the end of the beginning, ushering in a decade in 10 Downing Street.
After a double by-election loss last week, it’s increasingly clear that for Johnson, it’s the beginning of the end.
While some see the Conservatives’ loss of the Wakefield plus Tiverton and Honiton constituencies as a mid-government wobble, the results look ominous for the prime minister.
First, they come on the heels of a confidence vote in which 41% of his MPs voted against him.
More than that, the losses point to the collapse of the political model that delivered Boris his majority.
Johnsonism traded the loss of urban, increasingly liberal cities in the South for blue-collar towns in the North, tearing down the so-called “Red Wall” of constituencies that had voted Labour for a century.
The simultaneous loss of Tiverton and Honiton to the Lib Dems and Wakefield to Labour showed that the Conservatives are now bleeding at both ends. For Boris Johnson, D-Day has arrived.
A few weeks ago, at a Conference of European Rabbis event in Munich, I walked past a stand promoting a rehabilitation hospital in Germany that had opened with a shul and kosher food on the premises. One of the event’s PR people was eager to get me to cover the story, but in all honesty, I couldn’t see the relevance of a clinic in Thuringia having a hechsher to Mishpacha’s audience.
That turned out to be a mistake. As my colleague Yitzchak Nachshoni from our Hebrew edition discovered by the elementary expedient of saying hello to the reps at the booth, the hospital’s owner had a story worth writing home about.
He was the (non-Jewish) grandson of both a Nazi and a Holocaust survivor, and saw the hospital as a way of atoning for the crimes of his family’s past by offering Jewish people subsidized care and a warm welcome.
The story appeared in another English-language outlet before we could translate Yitzchak’s tale, but there’s a lesson in Journalism 101: It never hurts to say hello.
The average cost of gas at pumps across America has fallen slightly from a week ago, when it hit $4.98 per gallon, but nerves in the White House will be shredded over the ongoing highs, up from $3.09 just a year ago.
Politico reports that Biden’s Chief of Staff, Ron Klain, now monitors gas prices daily as fears grow of a midterm wipeout on the back of a cost-of-living crisis.
While gas prices are actually lower in America than Europe, the cost of a gallon has a totemic place in the American mind, serving as a proxy for the economic health of the country. Backed into a corner, Joe Biden has called a federal gas-tax holiday to lessen the pain at the pump. The alternative, he knows, is an administration that runs out of road.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 917)
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