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


The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7