American Jews must stay engaged following Israel’s election

JCRC Scene
Matt Goldberg

Matt Goldberg

A couple weeks ago we saw yet another Israeli national election, where the pundits on all sides of the political spectrum said that this was the most important election in the history of Israel, that Democracy itself was at stake, and that lives would be lost if one side or the other were to win.
These election year scare tactics are common in democracies, for sure, but elections in Israel have consequences for American Jewry’s relationship with the state.
The leading parties in the voting, Likud and Blue and White, have very different ideas regarding a two-state solution and religious pluralism, two issues that are of particular importance to us.
This election produced a government that is not so different than the current one. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu won despite the cloud of indictments hanging over his head. The right wing in general won, as they control 65 of the Knesset’s 120 seats. We can count on much of the same, the same individuals leading ministries, and similar postures on security and economic matters. Your determination of whether this was a good result rests entirely on your outlook of the previous government. If you are happy with the status quo, then you will be happy again.
A right wing government is being formed as we speak, with religious parties (both haredi and nationalist) forming a sizeable core. This means we can expect no movement on recognition of non-orthodox Judaism and their leadership. We can also expect no enthusiasm for a Palestinian state (though there are many contributing factors to that, including from the Palestinian side).
I don’t pretend to understand the psyche of the average Israeli voter, but these results make it apparent that security and economics are the motivating factors for them. Israelis remain highly skeptical of Palestinian intentions and the economy is doing very well in general (but not for everyone).
So what exactly is the role of American Jewry and Worldwide Zionism in post-election Israel? We need to continue speaking to the Israeli government on the issues we care about most.
Disturbing statements and actions regarding Israel’s Arab citizens need to be confronted. The Likud’s disturbing installation of monitoring cameras at many Arab voting sites was meant to intimidate Arab voters, an awful affront to a fair and impartial vote for all of Israel’s citizens.
We need to continue speaking out about the delegitmization of non-orthodox Jewry. We must be vocal on issues important to us, such as annexing portions of the West Bank (which would most likely eliminate any chance for a two-state solution with the Palestinians).
Finally, we must respect the will of the Israeli voters. As much as we care about Israel and are invested in its people and future, we neither live nor vote there. Additionally, we should take an immense amount of pride in the fact that there was a free and democratic election, an uncommon occurrence in the region. We absolutely can (and should) speak up when we disagree with Israel, and we should let our Israeli friends, family, colleagues and organizations we support know when we are dismayed.

(Matt Goldberg is the director of the Jewish Community Relations Council.)

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