Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Nah, Nah, I Can't See You So You're Not There

Like Yeshiva Chovevei Torah, the Hartmann Institute in Israel is an "Orthodox" institution, only that its definition of Orthodoxy si somewhat different from maintain Torah observant Judaism. If anything, the Hartmann Institute is worse in that Rav Avi Weiss still has (for now) some red lines he won't cross because he still recognizes you cannot honestly call yourself Orthodox if you allow certain things that Orthodox tradition does not allow. The Hartmann Institute knows no such red lines. In traditional left wing fashion, they feel free to advertise themselves as Orthodox and traditional because they feel they are, their lack of Orthodoxy and traditionalism not withstanding.
For whatever weird reason, a movement away from Torah true values is usually accompanied by a strong attachment to classic left wing liberalism. And one of the great tenets of left wing liberalism is a selective appreciate of democracy: the system only works when a left wing government is in power or a supreme court has a left wing majority. Otherwise the system isn't "representative" of the people under it, because it would be left wing if it was, because only left wing folks count.
Hence the declaration by Donniel Hartman that the Israeli right wing is dead. Never mind that Likud staged a stunning resurrection in the last election and that the only reason it didn't do better is because the even more right wing Yisrael Beiteinu grabbed a good number of seats. For Hartman this is no proof:
As is evidenced, however, over the last four weeks of Netanyahu's coalition discussions, it is clear that there is no right-wing majority within Israeli society.
His ongoing attempt to court Kadima and Labor signifies that he himself is not so easily subjected to right-wing classification. Netanyahu knows full well that the 65-seat coalition he might be able to form is not an ideologically united group, but one of deeply varying ideologies and interests that will fundamentally make his leadership on almost any issue, foreign or internal, impossible. While he nominally ran as leader of the so-called right-wing bloc, it is not his preference for the future of the country. Netanyahu's natural partners are Kadima and Labor, and he knows that.
There are many words to describe Netanyahu but centrist isn't one of them. Unlike Olmert and Livni who come from proper right wing backgrounds but betrayed them for the sake of power and friendly receptions in anti-Semitic European society, Netanyahu has not given up on his beliefs. Yes, he tried to form a coalition with Kadima. How better to reabsorb the former Likudniks who bolted his party with Ariel Sharon and discredit the left side of the worst group of
opportunists the country has ever seen? Has he tried to court Barak and Labour? Of course, and for two reasons. One is that Barak is probably the most competent defence minister the Knesset can offer (although that's not saying much) and secondly, making Labour a junior party in the government is the Likud's way of kicking someone who's already down.
The only reason Netanyahu cannot form a pure right wing coalition is not because the right wing in Israel is lacking. It's very much alive and it won the last election. The reason is the selfishness of the various right wing parties, none of which are prepared to put the good of the country above their own selfish agendas. (By the way, it's no different on the left). So when Hartman notes:
What does this really mean for Israeli society? If the election had any outcome, it was not the victory of the so-called right, nor the defeat of the so-called left, but rather the clear defeat of both
He is simply denying reality because reality doesn't reflect what he believes. Contrary to his preferred and enlightened opinion, Israeli society is very polarized. In the previous election, the one that brought Kadima to power, society was in a left wing mood, prepared to make compromise and punish those "religious fanatics" in 'Aza who were insolently pro-Zionist. This time, having lived through two failed wars, they had swung the other way.
The right wing in Israel is defined by one simple belief: Israel's interest in survival and thrivign are the most important thing. The Israeli left is defined by the opposite belief: Israel's interest is in appeasing implacable enemies even at the cost of national suicide. Seen from that angle, Hartman's believe in the death of the Israeli Right is so much empty wishing.

1 comment:

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

While I would hesitate to declare it a specifically left-wing phenomenon, I definitely agree with your general point.

First, let me talk about the point as it relates to Judaism- I would argue that there is certainly more wiggle-room within Orthodoxy than some of its present-day incarnations will own up to, but for me, the real issue is intellectual honesty.

There are halachic liberals, halachic conservatives, and then there are those for whom halacha is a total non sequiteur, like myself. I would rather be honest and say that I do not keep kosher at all (for reasons I freely explain to anyone who asks) rather than claim that "eating Chinese food out" somehow still counts as "keeping kosher." It is not my place to assign denominational identities to other people, particularly those I don't know, but frankly I am more impressed by those with the courage to stand by their convictions and beliefs- regardless of what label they wind up coming under- than those that do one thing, say they're committed to its exact opposite, and then claim no contradiction.

Similarly, I am unimpressed when people, left, right or upside-down, are incapable of making very basic political assessments based on pretty straight-forward data.

On the other hand, I think Hartman does have a point that Israeli political society is more multifaceted than you're willing to admit. There's definitely a polarization, but it's more complex than merely right and left- as evidenced, for instance, by the principled opportunism displayed by the Haredi parties every election cycle.

So I think it depends how you look at it. Bibi has his own beliefs, sure. But I'd say he's also looking out for himself and his own power and reputation first and foremost. If he thinks it will benefit him, he will give up land (Wye Accords), if, conversely, he thinks it makes him look better to be the stalwart, he'll play that role. I do not see him as a man of substance, or necessarily, action-- look, for instance, at his activities during the Disengagement. He talked a big game and tried to make it seem like he was leading the opposition to Sharon, but wound up doing very little-- compare that with the Likud rebels, who at least believed in what they were doing and therefore were willing to stick around to fight a losing battle. Bibi didn't care about Gaza; he was in it for the publicity ahead of his race to be Likud Head.

While you're right that Bibi is not a centrist per se, his willingness, like the Haredim, to go with whoever will benefit him, definitely makes him a very different political animal than the parties that reflect actual ideological principles and red lines (who I would say these days are the minority). Bibi is not an ideologue, he's a politician. Big difference.

I will agree as a general principle that it's annoying to see so-called leaders expecting people to take them seriously when they'd rather say what their followers want to hear rather than what everyone knows to be the facts. (Though I'm sure that's not just a left-wing behavior. :))