June 17, 2024
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Negotiations in Israel May Be A Little More Complex Than Last Week’s Daf Yomi

When one begins an article with the words “Without taking sides in …,” one wonders whether they will proceed to take a side. Rabbi Aaron I. Reichel, Esq. falls into this exact trap in his article “Daf Yomi Provides Template for Negotiating an End to Israel’s ‘Uncivil War’” (April 4, 2023). He unfairly paints the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who protested against the proposed judicial overhaul in a very negative light.

He writes, “Imagine how different life in Israel would be had more of the hysterical demonstrators who are interfering with the health, lives and livelihoods of Israelis — and of Israel itself, its army and its infrastructure — had the humility to take the trouble to read the fine print of the actual judicial practices that now rule the land and the actual proposals that are now being made, in context.”

This patronizing insult of the protestors makes assumptions that are unfair. I am presently in Israel, speaking to Israelis, many of whom are conversant in the specifics of the proposals and recognize that if the proposals were to be implemented in full, there would be no checks and balances in a country where checks and balances are already weak. This is no trivial matter. It speaks to an existential issue for the country, one that requires careful and deliberate discussions. That is what many of the protestors were asking for.

He describes an alternate reality that shows that he has fallen into the exact trap of which he accuses Israelis — of having been manipulated by the media. There is no question that we have seen intensity and debate of levels that are unprecedented in recent times. But to compare this to images of gladiators fighting to the death and crowds cheering them on, or Jewish factions burning down each other’s storehouses in the time of the destruction of Jerusalem, is a dangerous exaggeration. The intensity of the debate is harmful to Israeli society, but so is dangerous hyperbole. Left-wingers and right-wingers in Israel are still talking, debating, and discussing on TV, in their neighborhoods and in their supermarkets, albeit in a very Israeli fashion.

He also unfairly paints the anti-reform protestors as the more violent party. The protests have been very peaceful and of the relatively few violent situations, most of them have been by right- wingers attacking protestors.

He attacks reservists threatening the viability of the Jewish defense forces. First, they are the Israeli Defense Forces, as non-Jews serve in the IDF as well. The Druze, for example, are extremely patriotic and are some of the IDF’s best soldiers. Second, he would do well to read Betzalel Smotrich’s comments explaining why some of these reservists are fearful of a government where cabinet members support comments about wiping out cities with no Supreme Court to intervene. I don’t claim to defend the reservists who refuse to show up, and as an American I don’t pretend to speak to the merits of this issue, but let’s not simplify the complex issue.

He writes that “Those who arrogantly believe they know better than the majority of their fellow citizens, are seeking to overturn an election …” The truth is very different from this claim. Is he aware that a significant majority of Israelis, while recognizing that reform is needed, do not support the judicial reform that was presented to the Israeli public? Once again, this is far more complex than simply saying the majority won so it is arrogant to say we know better.

My hope is that the politicians presently working day and night on a compromise solution will be successful and Israeli democracy will be even stronger as a result. In the meantime, let’s not paint the situation in extreme, cartoonish or unfair fashion.

Rabbi Daniel Alter
Bergenfield
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