The Haredim as a Challenge for the Jewish State. The Culture War over Israel’s Identity

The above headline and sub-headline are taken from a recent report compiled by the Berlin-based ‘Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP)’, the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. https://www.swp-berlin.org/10.18449/2020RP14/

I urge readers to review the report.

As I wrote in a previous blog, central to their finders is the undeniable fact that a ‘’culture war is being waged in Israel: over the identity of the state, its guiding principles, the relationship between religion and the state, and generally over the question of what it means to be Jewish in the “Jewish State”.

Based on their research models, the SWP project that the Haredi community in Israel which will encompass 16% of the total citizenship of the country in 2030, will cost the state coffers 40 billion NIS (per annum). 2030 in real-time is just a few short years away.

This past Friday night, Channel 12 analyst Amnon Abramovich spoke about Binyamin Netanyahu and his reliance on the Haredi vote come March 23. Interestingly, Abramovich included a clip of Netanyahu from his days as finance minister, I believe the period in question was 2008, but I stand to be corrected if wrong. The clip, which I have searched for and can’t find on the Internet, shows Netanyahu addressing the Knesset and heaping scorn on the Haredi community. His theme was how much the Haredi community costs Israel, how little they, the Haredi community contribute to Israel and how the state can’t continue to support the community in this ‘one-way street’ of taking but not giving back. In public, at least, he has changed his tune given of course his desperate need for the on-going support of The Three Stooges and their respective communities.

Today’s opinion piece in the Jerusalem Post is worth reading: “It is time for the Ultra-Orthodox to be drafted by the IDF” “Politics aside, now is the time for Israel to make order of a historical travesty.” https://www.jpost.com/opinion/it-is-time-for-the-ultra-orthodox-to-be-drafted-by-the-idf-657260

The opinion piece includes a reference to Defense Minister Benny Gantz who recently announced that the Defense Ministry will not ask the high court for another extension regarding the drafting of Haredim to the military, rather will instead demand the coalition to approve a new draft bill in the cabinet.

According to Gantz, the answer to Israel’s ongoing political and social crisis is to formulate a bill that includes the ultra-Orthodox as well as the Arab communities.

“In Israel of 2021, more than 50% of the youth are not joining the army,” Gantz said last week during a news conference at the Kirya military headquarters in Tel Aviv. “We must be united in our service… Israeli society is changing its face, the IDF has turned from the people’s army to half the people’s army. Combat soldiers become freierim [suckers].”

Nice words Benny but too little, too late.

Gantz is, of course, fighting for his political survival, hoping I guess to retain his dwindling supporters and just maybe pick-up a few from the almost defunct Ron Huldai's new party The Israelis.

And, while Netanyahu remains PM, there is zero chance of Gantz’s ideas come to fruition. More’s the pity.

That said, today’s Israel Hayom makes an interesting observation. “Ultra-Orthodox unrest clouds Netanyahu's re-election hopes” “The ultra-Orthodox have long wielded what some say is a disproportionate influence over Israeli politics, using their kingmaker status in parliament to extract concessions from the nation's leaders.” https://www.israelhayom.com/2021/01/31/ultra-orthodox-unrest-clouds-netanyahus-re-election-hopes/

Yaakov Katz, editor of the Jerusalem Post is quoted in the article as saying “Israel's facing a Haredi insurrection that's making it impossible to fight COVID"

Later in the article: ‘This perceived weakness has begun to play into the hands of Netanyahu's rivals. Yair Lapid, leader of the centrist Yesh Atid party, which appeals to middle-class, secular voters, has seen his popularity shoot up.’ "We will put an end to this madness," Lapid wrote on Twitter. "With us, there will be one law for everyone."

Opinion polls this week projected Yesh Atid finishing second in elections behind Netanyahu's Likud, but in a potentially better position to form a coalition than Netanyahu. Another poll by Channel 12 found over 60% of respondents do not want any ultra-Orthodox parties in the next government.

But with 50+ days to go to March 23, Netanyahu is still more than capable of pulling a rabbit from his hat. Netanyahu is counting on the vaccination program to propel him to victory and has demonstrated time and again in these past weeks his unwillingness to take on his Haredi allies. Put another way, The Three Stooges have Netanyahu by his balls.

I wrote the other day about the need to take back our country, to protect our fragile democracy. Power to the People.

Democratic Israel is in mortal danger. The time for all concerned citizens to act is NOW!

Before it is too late.