At the time that I am writing this article, it appears that the greatest obstacle to creating a government coalition is the plan for drafting the Chareidim into the army. This seems to me to be an illusion, absurd, and related to nothing more than Purim. This is the ultimate issue on which the next government will be created or will fail, as if the actions of the Persian Haman have disappeared from the world, and as if we were living in New Zealand, the Caribbean Islands, or on the planet Jupiter. Even if we call this critical issue a matter of "equal burden" for all and we add to it the matter of participating in the national work force – it still remains a hallucination, surrounded by the Purim parades, and lacking in national proportions.
I am writing primarily thinking about the leaders of the Bayit Yehudi, the party to which I belong. I will summarize my position in a single sentence: This discussion is not something that matters to us as far as politics and the coalition is concerned, and we are mixing into a dispute that does not concern us. Even if we win in the political poker game that is taking place now as I write these lines, the result will still be that we lose from both sides, within our party and externally. If we propose our own plan neither side will give us any encouragement, and within our own ranks we will raise a controversy between the more strict "chardal" faction and the liberal side. We have enough such disputes coming without the current one.
Our position on this issue must be heard in a clear voice in ideological and social terms, and only there. The political religious Zionist movement (that is, "we" – consisting of the two parties Habayit Hayehudi and Ichud Leumi) must maintain a neutral position on this matter. Let the two sides come to an agreement without our help. We will accept whatever they decide from a political point of view. We are not involved now in trying to "educate" the Chareidim, and if the Supreme Court threw a stone into the waters, let them manage without our help. As far as I am concerned, this issue is similar to a declaration that we will not join the coalition unless the Chareidim agree to teach the core subjects in school.
A Bridge or a Mix
There is a concept on which we grew up that should be shattered. I do not know who invented the idea that the religious Zionist community is a "bridge" between the Chareidi and the nonreligious sectors. This concept mainly helps us to pat ourselves on the back. "We are the bridge between the various sectors... We have the power to bring about reconciliation..." These are just examples of our pride-filled statements. Such declarations are made mostly or exclusively by "our" speakers, and it seems to me that the leaders of both sides of the bridge do not accept the idea. If what we mean by a "bridge" is that we are planted firmly in the middle and that we can talk both to the Chareidim and the traditionalists and nonreligious – this can be accepted. It aptly describes our position. We believe in combining Torah and the state, Judaism and nationalism, religion and democracy, the laws of the Holy One, Blessed be He, and human rights – all as a wondrous unique complexity. However, if the meaning of the slogan of the "bridge" is a status of one who can negotiate between the two sides – this is simply not so. We get along with everybody, and some of us feel closer to one side or another, but we have no power to make them get along with each other.
Make no mistake, we have our own strong opinion with respect to the drafting of soldiers and participation in the work force and on many other issues, and the religious men and women in the IDF and in all walks of life in the country are ample proof of this! I fully support an outlook of combining different parts of the nation, with all my heart, but we have no way to force our viewpoint on the Chareidi sector. I do not think it is wise to try to do this with political coercion. As I hinted above, "our" sector ranges from "Chardal" to "lite" and even approaching nonreligious.
The Bennett-Lapid Agreement
I have a direct political statement to make about the "covenant" which refers to an agreement between Bennett and Lapid. At the time that I write these lines it seems to be rock-solid, and it serves to multiply the power of the combined Knesset seats. After all, "Two are better than one." As a calculated tactical ploy in the political stock exchange and in the market of risk versus benefit – it appears to be a success (for now). On the other hand, if the "covenant" is meant to imply a partnership of content, as opposed to timely interests, then the issues of a "draft plan" or "equal sharing of the burden" are not the correct platform. So far, I have not heard any other basis for this covenant. Do Bennett and Lapid agree on political lines on the issues of peace and security? Are they in agreement on issues of economic policies and budgets? What about other issues related to religion and the state – are they included in the "covenant" too? It seems to me that the "covenant" is centered on a mutual "enemy" who refuses to share the burdens of the country. This upsets me and does not sound good to me.
Therefore, I will stand my ground. We must remain neutral with respect to this dispute. Let Yair Lapid make some arrangement with the Chareidim, and we will accept it! In any case this will not be a solution based on values but rather a convoluted formula this is meant to square the circle or make a triangle into an arc. I have already written in this column that I do not see any way to get the Arabs to share the burden, and that there will not be any way to impose quotas for Torah study (any attempt to do so will put the heads of the yeshivot in the impossible position of making life and death decisions of which students are more important than others).
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I am writing this column on Purim, and I am reminded of the last verse in the Megillah, where we are told that Mordechai was "liked by most of his brethren" [Esther 10:3]. The Talmud teaches us, "not all the brethren, since some of the members of the Sanhedrin stayed away from him" [Megillah 16b]. Rashi explains that this was because "he did not spend his time on Torah and he became a government minister" – that is, he involved himself in national service and took on responsibilities for the good of the people. Evidently those who had reservations remembered his youthful sin of study of "core" subjects and other languages. "Bigtan and Teresh spoke to each other in the 'Torsi' language... They did not know that Mordechai was a member of the Sanhedrin, sitting in the 'Lishkat Hagazit' in the Temple, and that he could speak seventy languages." [Megillah 13b].