Israeli Abortion Law Offers an Ideal Compromise between Judaism and Liberalism

Contrary to a spurious opinion piece published in the New York Times, Israeli abortion law is quite liberal. What’s more, writes Evelyn Gordon, it is a model of how compromise can be reached in cases where traditional Jewish values conflict with those of liberalism:

By law, abortions require the approval of a committee comprising two doctors and a social worker. These committees (which all hospitals have) can approve abortions only in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy; after that, a special exceptions committee must authorize the procedure. . . . [I]n practice, . . . 98 percent of all abortion requests are approved; these criteria—especially the one about the woman’s mental health—are flexible enough that some committee can always be found to say yes. Moreover, . . . since abortions that meet the criteria can be approved anytime, they end up being easier to obtain here than in many liberal European countries, where limits on later-term abortions are much stricter.

The result is that while neither the liberal nor the Jewish side gets everything it wants, both get something important. Liberals get the fact that almost anyone who wants an abortion can get one, even in cases where Jewish law wouldn’t permit it; but they don’t get a legal right to an abortion; nor is the fetus deemed merely part of a woman’s body, subject to her full control. Religious Jews get a law which sends a clear message that destroying a potential life is justified only in exceptional circumstances; but, in practice, they must accept many abortions that don’t meet that standard.

Read more at Evelyn Gordon

More about: Abortion, Halakhah, Israel & Zionism, Judaism, Liberalism

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas