Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Everyone is prognosticating whether Israel will be able to form a government. Allow me from abroad to add my two cents.
Point #1 – The election was not about foreign policy or security, though those remain important. Rather, it was about internal Israeli policy, the economy and fairness in service to the state, young people’s inability to afford the cost of living, the huge government funds being given over to settlements and the Hareidim (ultra-Orthodox), the latter of which give nothing back in taxes or military/civilian service to the state.
Point #2 – Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid) and Naftali Bennett (Habayit HaYehudi), who surprisingly earned 19 and 11 mandates respectively, have formed a strong bond. Either they both become part of the ruling coalition or neither does, thus making Bibi Netanyahu scramble for parties (so far unsuccessfully) to join the government. Strange bedfellows when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, Lapid and Bennett agree that the economy and “sharing the burden” of military service must be addressed by the next government. Neither will join a coalition with any Hareidi party. Bibi has been unable to break them up. The Israeli public is growing in respect for both Lapid and Bennett as a result.
Point #3 – President Shimon Peres has given Bibi a two week extension to form a government. If Lapid and Bennett hold together it is my best guess that new elections will need to be called. It’s said that Bibi is heavily courting Shelly Yachimovich (Labor) to enter the government though she has refused to do so (but so did Tzipi Livni once upon a time - Tzipi and Bibi hate each other – but she made a deal anyway). If Bennett/Lapid do agree to come into the government with no ultra-Orthodox Hareidi parties, it is unclear what Livni will choose to do because her two-state interest is contrary to Bennett’s one-state position.
Point #4 – Bibi was deeply weakened in this election. His partnership with Yisrael Bateinu (Avigdor Lieberman, now under indictment) had hoped to garner 42 mandates. Instead the combined parties got 31 (20 are Likud and 11 are Yisrael Bateinu). Lapid and Bennett together hold 30 (19 and 11 respectively). According to current polls, if new elections are called Yair Lapid will earn in the mid to high 20s and will be asked to form the next government.
Point #5 – Shelly Yachimovich seriously weakened the Labor Party by her refusal to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian two-state solution and because personally she is not well-liked. Meretz (6 mandates) and Yesh Atid were the beneficiaries of disgruntled former Labor supporters. Lapid and Bennett are well-liked not only because they focused their campaigns on what the Israelis really want and need, (i.e. to clean up the economy, eliminate the disparity in government benefits going to Hareidim and the settlements, to make it obligatory for all Israelis - Hareidim included - to serve in the military or civilian service, and to clean up corruption.
Point #6 – Religious pluralism, though not the top issue of the campaign, will be affected by the government that is formed. If the ultra-Orthodox are kept out, this is very good for the Reform and Conservative movements and for secular Israeli Jews who make up 80% of the country. Civil marriage, reducing government support for ultra-Orthodox communities, granting more support for progressive religious communities (i.e. Reform and Conservative), women’s rights, civil marriage, immigrant rights, etc. will advance. Yair Lapid once wrote an article in Maariv saying that “We are all Reform Jews.” His children became b’nai mitzvah at Beit Daniel, our starship Reform synagogue of Tel Aviv and he is very close to Rabbi Meir Azari, Beit Daniel’s Rabbi.
Point #7 – The domestic issues that were the main focus of this election are now potentially in conflict with resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Vis a vis the Palestinians, Israelis have thrown up their hands. They want a two-state solution by a substantial majority (Bennett does not), but they do not really know whether the Palestinians want the same, though polls say the Palestinians too are in favor. Israelis, however, are not at all convinced that President Abbas of the PA can deliver a Palestinian state. The Israelis know that Iran remains a mortal threat, but are confident that President Obama will lead on the issue.
Conclusion – I believe Bibi will be unsuccessful in forming a new government and that new elections will be called – probably in May. If so, Yair Lapid could become Prime Minister. Of course, I could be completely wrong.
My wish for Israel is a strong and pragmatic middle of the road government without the ultra-Orthodox parties, and then real movement on both the domestic issues and a two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
5.23.13 at 9:22 am | The larger question is 'does Jewish tradition. . .
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5.16.13 at 4:34 pm | She was too beautiful, magnificent, and inspiring. . . (115)
6.19.12 at 7:13 am | One has to ask why would so many people would. . . (67)
5.23.13 at 9:22 am | The larger question is 'does Jewish tradition. . . (35)
March 1, 2013 | 7:20 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
“This is what everyone who is entered in the records shall pay: a half-shekel by the sanctuary weight to “atone for your souls.” (Exodus 30:13)
The Tosafot surmises that
"Moses was perplexed, thinking to himself, 'What can a person possibly give that will serve as atonement for his soul?' Thereupon, God showed him a 'coin of fire.'"
Question - How can a "coin of fire" grant atonement for one's soul?
Rabbi Menachem Schneerson answered with a parable:
A person once served as an apprentice to a silver and goldsmith. The artisan taught his apprentice all the necessary details except for one, which he omitted because of its utter simplicity: in order to melt gold and silver and change its shape, a fire must be lit under the metals.
Setting out on his own, the apprentice faithfully followed all the particulars his master taught him, leaving out that one "minor" detail that his teacher had omitted, the need for a fire. Because of this omission, of course, nothing happened. The silver and gold remained as they were, and the apprentice could fashion nothing at all.
God similarly responded to Moses by showing him a ‘coin of fire,’ (the half-shekel). (Likkuti Sichos, Vol. III, pages 923-28; from Parashat Shekalim - "An Undivided Half-Shekel")
The parable explains that merely offering a half-shekel coin doesn't bring about atonement. But, when the coin is offered with fire, referring to soul-fire, then the half-shekel atones even for a sin as grievous as the sin of the Golden Calf.
Another question - Why does Torah ask for only a half-shekel and not a whole shekel?
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev explains in a complex Kabbalistic discussion (Kedushat Levi, vol. 2, p 494, Lambda Press) that what we’re dealing with here are purely spiritual matters, that when an Israelite gives a half-shekel of twenty gerah weight, it isn’t about the monetary value we earthly beings require to physically sustain a community. Rather, it’s about how we may enter into God’s presence.
The first letter in the word Keter (Crown - the highest emanation of God on the Kabbalist chart of emanations) is chaf, and chaf equals twenty according to Hebrew letter-number equivalents, the same as the weight of the half-shekel, thereby indicating that the 20 gerah (chaf-Keter) weight half-shekel is a spiritual metaphor of ascent towards yihud (unity) with God at the highest level.
Rabbi Levi Yitzhak explains that without the spiritual fire no offering, no gift, no presentation from the heart will succeed in linking heaven and earth. Soul-fire is the critical element that enables yihud, union, between us and God.
It is part of the human condition that we are broken, flawed, distracted, seducible, unfocused, fragmented, disloyal, weak, and imperfect. The golden calf incident is the most spectacular example in the Biblical period of betrayal perpetrated by the people against God. Only 39 days before the making of the golden calf (in this week's Torah reading) they heard the commandment against worshipping false gods, and they made the object and celebrated it as a god in spite of what they had only recently experienced at the foot of Mount Sinai.
Those who had turned away from God badly needed a means to return to holiness. Restoration, thankfully, is always possible. Rabbi Simon Jacobson writes that "Moses offers us a rare - once in history - glimpse into the intimate secret of communicating with the Divine, as he beseeches God to forgive and reconcile with the people.... Moses implores God, ‘Show me Your face.’ [And in response] God forgives.”
Mending our relationship with God (and with those we love and community) is a fundamentally restorative and healing process, and it begins with the offering of the half-shekel.
Judaism teaches that we are most whole when we enter into authentic, trusting, loyal, loving, and passionately committed relationships with family and friends, with a sacred community and with God. That is the lesson of the half-shekel "coin of fire."
For those of us who do not believe there is a God or, at the very least are skeptical about ever experiencing a relationship with the Divine, then I suggest that you let authentic relationships with loved ones and with community suffice. Perhaps the Divine-human experience will follow.
Our Torah portion and the Midrashic literature teach that the ‘coin of fire,’ the half-shekel, facilitates atonement (read instead "at-one-ment"). When that occurs, when we offer a coin of fire we become, in effect, God’s light, as it says in Proverbs (20:27) - Nishmat adam ner Adonai - “The human soul is the lamp of God.”
February 21, 2013 | 11:08 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
In October I joined with 28 members of my congregation in a “humanitarian mission” to the Cuban Jewish community (meaning, we took goods and cash as gifts to support the Jewish community there). There are about 1000+ Cuban Jews living today in Havana, Santiago and Guantanamo, and we visited 3 of the 4 synagogue communities on the island. We were deeply moved by these people. They hosted us for Shabbat in Santiago (41 Jews) and welcomed us in Guantanamo (75 Jews) for lunch with an Israeli folk dance performance by 7 of its young people.
There is no Rabbi or Jewish school on the island to teach adults about Judaism and Jewish practice. Cubans generally have no access to the Internet, and so one would think that assimilation would be the greatest threat to the continued existence of their Jewish community. Yet, despite much intermarriage (by some estimates only 25 individuals have two Jewish parents) their Jewish identity is strong and their longing for all things Jewish compelling.
In Santiago I was asked to name a 10 day-old baby girl. In Guantanamo, we were shown the pride and joy of that community, a brand new Torah scroll contributed a few years ago by the Canadian Jewish Congress. It had never been read, which brings me to the purpose in this blog.
A study was recently published called “American Jewish Secularism: Jewish Life Beyond the Synagogue” by Barry A. Kosmin and Ariela Keysar in which the authors discuss our changing American Jewish identity. Though 40% of the American Jewish community (by some estimates) is affiliated with synagogues, and among them a portion do believe in God, study Torah regularly and do Jewish good works in the interest of tikun olam (repair of the world), most American Jews are not synagogue-affiliated, and an even greater number consider themselves atheist or agnostic, are unlearned in Judaism, and do not lead lives that are particularly Jewish, though they may very well self-identify as Jewish.
Many so-called “secular” Jews, instead of being involved in religious communities, are instead drawn as Jews to Jewish culture and politics such as Church-State issues, Israel, Yiddish and modern Hebrew study, Klezmer and Jewish music, Jewish photography and art exhibits, Israeli film, and Jewish book festivals. All this is well and good. Indeed, what the study indicates is that there is developing a rich secular Jewish culture in America that engages many.
My question is this: Just as the Cuban Jewish community relishes in the celebration of Jewish holidays, Israeli music, and Jewish communal life (with an obvious lack of exposure to American Jewish cultural opportunities), their knowledge base in Judaism is paper-thin.
Let me not be misunderstood. What the Cuban Jews have managed to create with no rabbis and no serious Jewish educational institutions is nothing less than heroic. But, I and my traveling companions worried about the survival of the Cuban Jewish community.
I also worry about the nature of the American Jewish community going forward. Will it survive, or will it morph into something unrecognizable by today’s standards?
I take the position that every door needs to be kept open, and new doors need to be opened, to welcome Jews and their families into Jewish communal life. I am well aware that not all these doors will necessarily lead people to an enriched Jewish faith, experience of God and the holy, or to greater Jewish learning. Yet those doors (be they children’s education, Purim Shpiels and carnivals, social justice work, trips to Israel and Jewish communities around the world, and Jewish cultural events), I would hope, will be stepping stones leading our people to deeper Jewish knowledge and engagement in the covenant of the Jewish people with God.
Many American secular Jews confess that that they do not need synagogues in order to be Jewish. That may be true, but for our community to maintain our Jewish identity and secure some measure of Jewish continuity, no other institution in Jewish life has ever been able to bring Jews together in all the dimensions of life as has the synagogue, except perhaps the State of Israel.
The synagogue has been the Diaspora’s laboratory of Jewish living for two millennia. It is where Jews experience the holy and engage in tikun olam.
What will the next generation of American Jews be like? Will our American Judaism look more like that of our Cuban Jewish brothers and sisters, or will we discover a more enriched Jewish identity and life?
The Talmud (Shabbat 127a) reminds us of the truth that Talmud Torah k’neged kulam (“The study of Torah is equal to all the commandments”).
To secure Jewish life, Jews have had to be learned and committed to the building of community. It is from this base that we have survived, and this alone.
February 13, 2013 | 8:36 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
What follows is my response to a flurry of letters posted by Reform Rabbis on our List Serve (RAVKAV) critical of J Street. Many of my colleagues charge that J Street ignores hostility to Israel throughout the Middle East, the growing influence and threat of Hamas in the Palestinian community, that Israel has no real partner to peace in Mahmud Abbas, and that J Street is constantly critiquing Israeli policies and not the Palestinians.
Note: I serve as the National co-chair of the J Street Rabbinic Cabinet with close to 700 rabbis of all religious streams - see J Street's website for all policy positions - www.jstreet.org.
In response to [the above] challenges to J Street, I want to offer J Street's stated position on a number of issues as well as its reasoning for a number of its positions.
Re: the issue of "calling for concessions by the Palestinians" - I would make two points:
(1) J Street has always made clear such views as
(a) the Palestinians have to give up the right of return;
(b) the Palestinian state has to be demilitarized;
(c) the Palestinians must cease the rhetoric and actions that incite violence and hatred of Jews; and
(d) that any Palestinian entity/party that hopes to be part of the political process has to renounce violence/terror, recognize Israel and agree to abide by past agreements.
Those views are all in J Street's policy papers and on the J Street website – but not too much discussion or debate is ever generated by them because they are consensus points. There would be no need to set up a J Street in the first place if those were the thrust of our points – every Jewish organization agrees with and makes those points. That's why 2% of the ink spilled about J Street addresses or acknowledges these points;
(2) The reason why it seems to those who follow us/read about us that we are 98% of the time talking about what we are calling on Israel to do is that that's what there's an argument. Those who choose to argue/debate don't raise the issues on which we agree, they raise the issues on which we disagree. So that's why one hears a lot more about our belief that Israel should stop expanding settlements, or that the US should play a more active role in leading the peace effort, and that such parameters as the borders need to be based on the '67 lines with swaps or that both countries should have a capital in Jerusalem should be put forward by the US.
On the issue of primarily focusing on Israel – it's hard not to disagree with the theory that, even though we're Jews and we engage in this issue (as opposed to peace in Mali) because we care so deeply about Israel and the Jewish people, we somehow shouldn't be more focused on the Jewish side of the equation. The entirety of this debate actually is about what it means to be pro-Israel – not what it means to be pro-Palestinian. We believe it is pro-Israel to advocate for Israelis to stop building settlements. We believe it is pro-Israel to advocate for US leadership in getting a deal. Of course it's pro-Israel to advocate that the Palestinians should stop incitement and fight terror – but we're going to have little impact on the internal Palestinian debate on how best to gain their freedom (even though we have made statements precisely on those points). We are going to have an impact on the Jewish debate over what it means to be pro-Israel.
On the Palestinian partner question, J Street obviously just disagrees. Abbas, Fayyad and this PLO/PA leadership ARE a partner for peace despite Abbas' rhetoric at the UN, about which I was sickened. However, their being considered partners in peace is not just in J Street's opinion but in the opinion of such Israeli leaders as former Prime Ministers, the President of Israel, former heads of the Israeli security services. No, Mahmoud Abbas is not a Zionist. That's no surprise. When, as the leader of the Palestinian people, he addresses the international community directly he will be – as we would expect our leaders to be – a fierce advocate for the rights of his people, which we have to acknowledge are in conflict with the rights of our people. If he were to do less, he would be completely abdicating his role and he would sacrifice the last shred of legitimacy and credibility that he has. For anyone to simply state that "it is a reality" that Abbas and the PLO are "not yet committed to offering themselves as serious partners in the peace process" is simply an opinion that is out of step with the moderate mainstream of Israeli policy makers and analysts. It's such a person’s right to hold that opinion and it's J Street's right to believe that s/he is wrong. If one is waiting for Abbas to come to Israel and announce up front that the Palestinian people renounce their right to the land as "theirs," s/he will sadly watch a bloody, violent struggle continue for the rest of his/her life, and the state of Israel gradually will become more and more internationally isolated and shunned. If one is willing to recognize that peace will be made between two leaders/people who fiercely believe they are "in the right" but are willing to compromise at the end of the day to achieve peace and end bloodshed, then maybe there's hope.
Let me say one more thing. I deeply appreciate the civility with which those who have posted are writing. That is a win for everyone. I would hope that those who hold views that presume J Street is one-sided will take a second look at J Street's positions and approach to a two-state solution. It is, in my view, the only way forward. I am well-aware of the risks. I understand that Israelis are the ones on the front lines and that we in Galut have only a secondary right to speak. But, I also know that so many hundreds of thousands of Israelis agree with J Street's position, or should I say, that J Street agrees with their position.
February 11, 2013 | 9:49 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
Recent surveys conducted by Hiddush, an organization committed to freedom of religion for Israel, show clearly that the vast majority of Israelis want “freedom of religion and equality in shouldering civic burdens, equal military service for all, the implementation of core curricular studies, civil marriage, public transportation on Shabbat, a decrease in subsidies for yeshiva students, and action against public discrimination of women. Instead the public suffers from the government’s repeated surrender to the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism.” (Rabbi Uri Regev, President of Hiddush).
This conclusion is drawn from surveys conducted before and after the recent Israeli elections by the Rafi Smith Research Institute. Here are some of its findings:
There are a number of conclusions to be drawn from these surveys:
The ultra-Orthodox community of Israel, represents only 9% of Israeli society. Modern Orthodox Jews are far more in number but work and serve in the Israeli military as do all Israeli citizens. The Israeli public clearly has voiced its opposition to the unfair influence of the ultra-Orthodox parties over Israel’s civil community. It is hoped that the next government will reflect the true desires of the Israeli public.
The particulars of Hiddush surveys can be found on the Hiddush web-site.
February 4, 2013 | 10:16 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
This morning I spoke by phone to Jerusalem with Felice Friedson (The Media Line's - TML - co-founder and its current President and CEO) about a new U.S. State Department-funded study on Israeli and Palestinian textbooks that soon will be released.
The article “Text-Book Study Sparks Controversy,” co-written by Felice Friedson and Linda Gradstein of NPR News, covers a study conducted over the last three years of how Israeli and Palestinian school textbooks treat the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the images these textbooks create of the other population. Felice, who has read the entire study, reports that:
A U.S. State Department-funded study on Israeli and Palestinian textbooks released in Jerusalem has set-off a wave of insults, charges and counter-charges. Israel’s Ministry of Education called the detailed report “biased and unprofessional” while the International Society for Political Psychology called the Israeli government’s description “highly distressing.”
Education is a key element in a future two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is clear that there is a long way to go before the two enemy populations know and understand each other. Organizations such as Seeds for Peace have sought to defuse conflict through face to face encounters, camps and projects in which Israeli and Palestinian youth come to actually know one another, but not nearly enough people on each side have had such opportunities. This is why this text-book study is so revealing as a gauge for the state of understanding of each population towards the other. This story will have legs for some time. It is worth following:
See the Media Line Story here.
Note: The Media Line is a “non-profit news organization established to enhance and balance media coverage in the Middle East.” It delivers its in-house news and programming via multiple media – radio, television content, Internet news and features, and written stories for the print media. Media outlets using The Media Line as a source include the BBC World Service; National Public Radio; ABC, CBS affiliates; Al-Quds (Palestinian) newspaper; Y-Net (Israel); Ma’an (Palestinian) Television Network; Atlanta Journal-Constitution; India Today; IRN (UK Radio). Media Line may also soon be picked up by The Huffington Post .
January 30, 2013 | 10:42 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
The film “Gatekeepers” was made, according to Director Dror Moreh, for Israelis who do not think much about the lives of Palestinians living in the West Bank under Israeli occupation nor about the negative and corrosive impact the occupation has had on the moral and political character of the people and state of Israel. It is also intended for those American Jews who love Israel in their kishkes, who understand that Jewish history in light of the Holocaust compels them to appreciate the central importance of the Jewish state in their lives, but who have come to the wrong conclusion, that in order to love Israel they have to support her policies right or wrong.
The film has been nominated for an Academy Award at this year’s Oscars, and I am personally mixed about whether I want it to win or not, because winning means even wider exposure of this disturbing story before the world at large.
The film features interviews of six retired Directors of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security services. These are hardened, pragmatic men, people with blood on their hands, who have seen it all, who have been the chief practitioners in the fight against terrorism, and who understand that though there are things Israel’s military has had to do to protect Israeli citizens, there is still something “unnatural” about this fight.
Why are these Shin Bet former directors speaking out now? After all, anyone working in Israel’s intelligence services historically has been closed-mouthed about what happens there. They agreed to be interviewed and part of this film because they believe that the direction of Israeli policy is leading the Jewish state towards a catastrophe, that the continued occupation of one and a half million hostile Palestinian Arabs in the West Bank is doomed for disaster, that the occupation is eating away at Israel’s political and moral heart and soul and threatening the survival of the Jewish democratic state of Israel.
The six characterized Israel’s policy in the West Bank as short-sighted, based on tactical matters and not reflective of a cogent long-term strategy. To a man they are soured on Israel’s political leaders who they say have failed to grapple with the core of the conflict and who have not demonstrated the courage necessary to find a two-state solution. They do not understand, for example, Prime Minister Netanyahu who on the one hand says he is for a two-state solution and on the other embraces the most extremist elements within Israeli society that are against a Palestinian state anywhere west of the Jordan River.
One can only hope that there will be a more moderate Israeli government that forms in the next few weeks reflecting the Israeli public’s rejection of extremism and a renewed effort by the United States to bring the parties together to talk and negotiate in good faith.
“Gatekeepers” is a must-see film for anyone who cares about Israel as the democratic state of the Jewish people.
Below is a 25 minute interview with Dror Moreh, the Director of Gatekeepers by The Huffington Post.
January 29, 2013 | 9:32 am
Posted by Rabbi John Rosove
So threatened Ohed Shaked, a self-described Hareidi (Ultra-Orthodox) teacher of citizenship in an open letter to Yair Lapid, as printed in the Israeli daily Yideot Achronot (January 24).
Mr. Shaked expressed the view that Lapid’s success in the recent elections (19 seats) means that he now has a pivotal role to play vis a vis the Hareidi community. Shaked appealed to Lapid’s sense of decency that he showed during the campaign in not attacking key rabbis and leaders of the ultra-Orthodox parties Shas and United Torah Judaism. He also asserts that the future of the state of Israel is in Lapid’s own hands.
What is Mr. Shaked (and by extension) the Hareidi community most worried about? Two things: 1. Yair Lapid’s call for shivyon b’netel (sharing the burden), which refers to the conscription of the Orthodox into either military or civilian service, like all other Israelis, and 2. The new government’s reordering of budgetary priorities given the massive deficit of $39 billion, $20 billion more than was expected. One of the budget’s large expenses is to the Orthodox community that is estimated to be between $500 million and $1 billion annually. Note: The Reform and Conservative communities receive almost no funds from the government. Lapid is a pluralist and attends occasionally Beit Daniel, the starship Reform synagogue of Tel Aviv, and it is the hope of Israel’s liberal religious streams that official Israeli government discrimination will end.
Mr. Shaked is concerned that military conscription of all Orthodox students would devastate the commitment to Torah learning and practice in the Orthodox world, which they believe sustains the Jewish people and the Jewish state. He understands that there are, however, two categories of religious students – the serious students of Torah (“Torah faithful”) and others. The difficulty is in defining who is “Torah faithful” and who is not. At the very least, Shaked believes that bonafide “Torah faithful” students should be given a pass when it comes to military service.
Mr. Shaked called for a meeting of the minds between Yair Lapid with the second on his party list, Rabbi Shai Peron, and the rabbis of Shas (11 seats) and United Torah Judaism (7 seats).
Since the election, Shas and United Torah Judaism have created a voting block of 18 seats, hoping to compete with Lapid's Yesh Atid (19 seats). The question is whether the religious parties will be invited by Netanyahu into the ruling coalition in the next Knesset. Netanyahu, if press reports are correct, is leaning towards giving Shas a role in the government instead of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home Party (Bayit Yehudi), which won 11 seats. Bennett, a young modern orthodox wealthy entrepreneur, represents the settler movement and is categorically against a Palestinian state existing anywhere on land west of the Jordan River.
If PM Netanyahu invites Bennett’s party into the government, he would not need Shas to give him a majority of seats in his coalition. If he invites Shas he would not need Bennett’s Jewish Home Party.
Yair Lapid said immediately after the election that he would push hard in his discussions with Netanyahu for renewed negotiations with the Palestinian Authority towards reaching a two-state solution, as well as the goal of Orthodox conscription and efforts on behalf of the middle class. Essentially, it seems that Lapid has become the “King-maker” as Bibi strives to piece together a coalition that would be secure enough to rule.
Shas is more open to negotiations with the Palestinians than is Bennett. Should Bibi invite Shas, Lapid would then insist that the Rabbis agree to go forward in the negotiations with the Palestinian Authority. If Shas does agree, it is likely that Bibi will accommodate the Ultra-Orthodox community somewhat on the issue of “sharing the burden” of military service.
My own view is that at this point in Israel’s history, a two-state solution must be number one on Israel’s agenda (along with concern about Iran’s nuclear development) for Israel’s sake as a Jewish and democratic state. Though there is much resentment towards the ultra-Orthodox in Israeli society (they make up 20% of all Israelis) because of the military deferments and the large budgetary expense for their yeshivot and communities, it may be politically necessary to set that issue on the back burner. Perhaps, there will agreement on the goal of a more gradual “sharing the burden.”
The politics of coalition building may avert Mr. Shaked’s veiled threat of a Milchemet Achim, (war between brethren) while also averting the next war with the Palestinians.
That would be a win-win!