Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Monday, 3 November 2008

Going Nowhere Fast

Once upon a time, the Mafdal (National Religious Party) was an important part of the Knesset. Controlling enough seats to make it a valuable part of any coalition, it was a member of the government from the inception of the State until 1992.
Over the last twenty years, as part of the increasing obsession within Mizrachi with the pioneers of Yesha, the relevance of the Mafdal has decreased within Israeli society including its constituent base, the Dati Leumi community. The last time the Mafdal turned in a respectable election result in 2003, it chose to join Ariel Sharon's last government and sit at the cabinet table with the Shinui party, further alienating it from the religious public. Following that poor decision, the party returned to opposition and then split into two despite have only a handful of MK's in the first place!
Then, to confound matters, the party chose to run a joint list with the National Union party in the 2006 election. The two parties together only managed to obtain 9 seats and the Mafdal's share was only 3 of them. What a slide into irrelevance!
And now a new announcement out of Israel today: The Mafdal and the National Union are once again merging, but this time into a single party instead of one joint list.
Naturally there is much celebrating by all the official movers and shakers of this deal but I am still disappointed. Much life shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic, this merger does not address the fundamental reason that the Mafdal and the National Religious community have lost influence within Israeli society over the last 20 years.
Let's face it: there are three parties in Israel capable of forming the dominant portion of any government: Likud, Avodah and Kadima. All three parties run on comprehensive platforms and can serve up a full slate of ministers if necessary. The remainder of the small parties, like Gil, the Chareidi parties and Meretz, are single issue vehicles only interested in being part of a governing coalition if their narrow interested are met.
Due to the Yesha agenda, the Mafdal has similarly become a one-issue party and it isn't a popular one. Through the efforts of the leftist governments and media since 1993, the brave pioneers of Yesha who are struggling to keep Jewish control over Jewish land have been villified and turned into the extreme fringe of Israeli society. To support them marks one as a fanatic, a war monger, an obstacle to peace.
Then there is the general wordly nature of the National Religious community. Unlike the Chareidim, most of the Mizrachi live and work within general Israeli society. Like their secular counterparts, they have concerns about the roads, taxes, health care and the direction the State is taking. Does it make more sense to vote for a one issue party like the Mafdal or for a comprehensive party like the Likud which may not be religious but politically reflects many Mizrachi values?
If the Mafdal really wants to regain importance in the Knesset, and the National Religious community wants to start growing and replacing the Chareidim as the definitive form of Judaism today, then they have to rebuild their philosophy. No longer can being Mizrachi be all about Yesha. Through the effort of Mizrachi talmidei chachamim, the issues facing a modern state have been analyzed through the lens of halachah. Being Dati Leumi shows that one can be a member of the modern world while being an observer of Torah law without compromise. It is this element of Mizrachi, that if necessary it could run the State in a normal fashion within the bounds of halachah, not the manner found in Iran, that the movement needs to emphasize.
Mizrachi must not be about Yesha. It must be about making Israel more Jewish.


David said...

I think you're touching on a serious existential issue for Israel. I don't think the majority of Israelis have any interest in living in a state run within the bounds of halachah.

Which does beg the question of what it means (or ought to mean) to be a "Jewish" state...

I don't have the answer. I think Israel's founders would have answered the question in a very ethnic sort of way, but I'm not sure that's a valid answer, either.

His Lordship, Garnel Ironheart said...

A question to be asked then is: Can a state be run according to halachah without it devolving into a fundamentalist society?

I don't know if, given the current religious leadership, that's possible.

I do knowk, however, that there are lots of seforim that have looked at the issue and that without an emphasis on Jewish Torah values, Israel's existence becomes very questionable.

David said...

"Can a state be run according to halachah without it devolving into a fundamentalist society?"

Hmmm. As far as I can see from the Charedim, I'm not even sure that a religion can be run according to halachah without it devolving into a fundamentalist organization of which I'm less and less inclined to be a part.

As to the balance of the issue, is there a distinction between "Torah values" and halachah? Perhaps those values can be incorporated... but, in the end, yes, Israel's existence is very questionable. It's trapped in an existential crisis of its own creation-- it became a "Jewish state" without ever having a clear notion of what that is.

Personally, I think that if the Arabs really wanted to destroy Israel, they could simply make peace, apologize for their past behavior, step back and allow Israeli society to implode of its own accord.

Garnel Ironheart said...

100% agreement there.

Back in the mid 80's my father was already saying that if the Arabs just left us alone for long enough, we'd do ourselves in.

So B"H for them I guess?

David said...

"So B"H for them I guess?"

Ironic, isn't it?