American Jewish Leaders Should Stop Bemoaning the “Death of Israeli Democracy”

While Daniel Gordis was not pleased by the results of the Jewish state’s most recent election, he has little sympathy with “the seemingly incessant torrent of woe-is-us columns” penned by “American rabbis and communal leaders of all sorts, . . . declaring Israel-as-they-knew-it dead, bemoaning the fact that they can no longer support the Jewish state.” To the authors of these columns, he replies:

What does it say about your worldview when the country that you did decide to wash your hands of is the only country on the planet whose express purpose is saving the Jewish people? An election goes a way you don’t like and you announce that you’re done? If that is what Jewish communities are willing to call leadership, then let’s be honest: we don’t even deserve to survive.

Gordis, an American rabbi who left his pulpit to live in Israel as an author, teacher, and university administrator, also questions how well his former colleagues really understand what is going on inside the Jewish state.

If they don’t read the Hebrew press, those who say that Israel’s enlightened days are behind us have no way of knowing that in . . . Makor Rishon, a religious paper with a definite right-of-center bent, . . . on the front page, there was an opinion piece by the unquestionably Orthodox Rabbi Ḥayim Navon pointing out that the election was democratic and that [the new coalition was] elected properly, and yet, at the same time, urging [its most controversial members]—Bezalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben-Gvir, and Avi Maoz—to remember that the campaigning has now ended and it’s time to start governing, not only on behalf of those who voted for the government, but also on behalf of those who voted against it.

Moreover, Gordis notes, there is a significant gap between pre-election rhetoric and post-election policy. Take, for instance, the case of Avi Maoz, who has joined the government as the Knesset’s sole representative of the Noam party, whose main concern is the normalization of homosexuality in public life:

The Knesset member Amir Ohana, openly gay and religiously traditional, was just confirmed as Israel’s first openly gay speaker of the Knesset. With his partner sitting in the gallery of the Knesset, Ohana put on a kippah due to the sanctity of the moment. Guess who voted for him? Yup, Avi Maoz. Why? Because it turns out that politics are not simple, there are lots of considerations in every step. If Maoz couldn’t even muster a negative vote in a case where his voting “no” wouldn’t have made a bit of difference, he evidently understands something about the terrain.

Gordis goes on to argue, that centrists like himself must consider that, when it comes to judicial reform or better policing in the Negev, the right has some important and wholly legitimate concerns.

Read more at Israel from the Inside

More about: Homosexuality, Israel and the Diaspora, Israeli democracy, Israeli Election 2022, Israeli politics


When It Comes to Peace with Israel, Many Saudis Have Religious Concerns

Sept. 22 2023

While roughly a third of Saudis are willing to cooperate with the Jewish state in matters of technology and commerce, far fewer are willing to allow Israeli teams to compete within the kingdom—let alone support diplomatic normalization. These are just a few results of a recent, detailed, and professional opinion survey—a rarity in Saudi Arabia—that has much bearing on current negotiations involving Washington, Jerusalem, and Riyadh. David Pollock notes some others:

When asked about possible factors “in considering whether or not Saudi Arabia should establish official relations with Israel,” the Saudi public opts first for an Islamic—rather than a specifically Saudi—agenda: almost half (46 percent) say it would be “important” to obtain “new Israeli guarantees of Muslim rights at al-Aqsa Mosque and al-Haram al-Sharif [i.e., the Temple Mount] in Jerusalem.” Prioritizing this issue is significantly more popular than any other option offered. . . .

This popular focus on religion is in line with responses to other controversial questions in the survey. Exactly the same percentage, for example, feel “strongly” that “our country should cut off all relations with any other country where anybody hurts the Quran.”

By comparison, Palestinian aspirations come in second place in Saudi popular perceptions of a deal with Israel. Thirty-six percent of the Saudi public say it would be “important” to obtain “new steps toward political rights and better economic opportunities for the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.” Far behind these drivers in popular attitudes, surprisingly, are hypothetical American contributions to a Saudi-Israel deal—even though these have reportedly been under heavy discussion at the official level in recent months.

Therefore, based on this analysis of these new survey findings, all three governments involved in a possible trilateral U.S.-Saudi-Israel deal would be well advised to pay at least as much attention to its religious dimension as to its political, security, and economic ones.

Read more at Washington Institute for Near East Policy

More about: Islam, Israel-Arab relations, Saudi Arabia, Temple Mount