For Israel’s Ultra-Orthodox Women, a New Political Party

Among the newly-formed parties running candidates in the upcoming Israeli elections is bi-Zkhutan. The name means “on their own merit,” with their in a feminine grammatical form. Currently, ultra-Orthodox parties do not allow female candidates on their lists, and the all-female leaders of bi-Zkhutan hope to field political representatives who will defend their interests. Beth Kissileff profiles the party’s head, Ruth Colian:

Colian is well aware of the risks involved in what she is doing. One prominent haredi figure has already hinted ominously that she could be excommunicated for her political activities. When asked about the threats against her and the fear that her children will be asked to leave their schools, Colian says, “. . . I’m afraid, I am terrified. But I don’t have any choice.” For Colian, bi-Zkhutan is not just a political party, but a moral imperative. “These [haredi] parties get money from my taxes as a woman,” she says, but they won’t let her or other women run for office. . . . She feels that the process has now taken on a life of its own, and “thousands and hundreds of thousands of women want my process to be completed and successful.”

[W]hatever her misgivings about haredi society, Colian is a religious woman. Indeed, her faith encourages her to believe that she can complete her “process.” “You need to believe in God to do the right thing,” she says. “If God is with you, there is no chance you will not get help if you are doing the right thing.”

Read more at Tower

More about: Feminism, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Judaism, Ultra-Orthodox, Women in Judaism

Iran’s Calculations and America’s Mistake

There is little doubt that if Hizballah had participated more intensively in Saturday’s attack, Israeli air defenses would have been pushed past their limits, and far more damage would have been done. Daniel Byman and Kenneth Pollack, trying to look at things from Tehran’s perspective, see this as an important sign of caution—but caution that shouldn’t be exaggerated:

Iran is well aware of the extent and capability of Israel’s air defenses. The scale of the strike was almost certainly designed to enable at least some of the attacking munitions to penetrate those defenses and cause some degree of damage. Their inability to do so was doubtless a disappointment to Tehran, but the Iranians can probably still console themselves that the attack was frightening for the Israeli people and alarming to their government. Iran probably hopes that it was unpleasant enough to give Israeli leaders pause the next time they consider an operation like the embassy strike.

Hizballah is Iran’s ace in the hole. With more than 150,000 rockets and missiles, the Lebanese militant group could overwhelm Israeli air defenses. . . . All of this reinforces the strategic assessment that Iran is not looking to escalate with Israel and is, in fact, working very hard to avoid escalation. . . . Still, Iran has crossed a Rubicon, although it may not recognize it. Iran had never struck Israel directly from its own territory before Saturday.

Byman and Pollack see here an important lesson for America:

What Saturday’s fireworks hopefully also illustrated is the danger of U.S. disengagement from the Middle East. . . . The latest round of violence shows why it is important for the United States to take the lead on pushing back on Iran and its proxies and bolstering U.S. allies.

Read more at Foreign Policy

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, U.S. Foreign policy