It’s Time for Haredi Jews to Become Part of Israel’s Story

Unless the Supreme Court grants an extension from a recent ruling, on Monday the Israeli government will be required to withhold state funds from all yeshivas whose students don’t enlist in the IDF. The issue of draft exemptions for Haredim was already becoming more contentious than ever last year; it grew even more urgent after the beginning of the war, as the army for the first time in decades found itself suffering from a manpower crunch. Yehoshua Pfeffer, a haredi rabbi and writer, argues that haredi opposition to army service has become entirely disconnected from its original rationale:

The old imperative of “those outside of full-time Torah study must go to the army” was all but forgotten. . . . The fact that we do not enlist, all of us, regardless of how deeply we might be immersed in the sea of Torah, brings the wrath of Israeli society upon us, gives a bad name to all of haredi society, and desecrates the Name of Heaven. It might still bring harsh decrees upon the yeshiva world. It is time for us to engage in damage limitation.

In Pfeffer’s analysis, today’s haredi leaders, by declaring that they will fight the draft tooth and nail, are violating the explicit teachings of the very rabbis who created and supported the exemptions. He finds the current attempts by haredi publications to justify the status quo not only unconvincing but insincere. At the heart of the matter, according to Pfeffer, is a lack of haredi identification with Israel as a whole, a lack of feeling that the Israeli story is also the haredi story:

Today, it is high time we changed our tune. The new response to the demand for enlistment needs to state, first and foremost to ourselves, that this is our story. On the one hand, it is crucial to maintain and even strengthen our isolation from secular values and culture. . . . On the other hand, this cultural isolationism must not create alienation from our shared story with our fellow brethren living in the Holy Land. Participation in the army is one crucial element of this belonging.

Read more at Tzarich Iyun

More about: Haredim, IDF, Israeli society

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood