Abolish the Chief Rabbinate

What would you think if you and your children were registered as Jewish citizens of Israel, but when your daughter applied to be married, she was told that in the eyes of the Chief Rabbinate she was not Jewish? And not only that, but – oops –  you yourself were not legally married? It happens.

Israel’s taxpayer-supported Chief Rabbinate maintains a list of Israelis who may not be officially married by a rabbi in the country, because they are not recognized as Jewish or for some other halachic reason. Recently, the Rabbinate decided that it had the right to review the files of people that had been previously recognized as Jewish and to add them to the list, and in the past two years has added 900 persons to it. Here are some examples provided by ITIM, an organization founded by Seth Farber, an Orthodox rabbi who assists people in dealing with Israel’s religious bureaucracy:

One case involves an American-born woman who married an Israeli in a civil ceremony in Florida in 1984. The couple moved to Israel that year, and the woman and the couple’s oldest child converted to Judaism the following year. Both were subsequently registered as Jewish in the Population Registry, as were two daughters later born to the couple. A few years ago, the oldest daughter applied to marry in Israel. In the process, her mother was notified by a representative of the Chief Rabbinate that her marriage was no longer valid because she was not Jewish. Her daughter subsequently decided to marry in a civil ceremony in Cyprus. The couple’s other daughters were notified that their names had been added to the blacklist until further clarification.

A second case involves a family of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Recently, a relative of theirs who applied to get married in Israel was rejected because he could not provide sufficient proof that he was Jewish. After he was rejected, all his family members, who had already been registered as Jewish, were notified that their Jewish status was now pending clarification.  …

[Another] case also involves a family of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In this particular case, an investigation was launched when a member of the family sought to divorce her husband, citing domestic violence. The estranged husband, in response, claimed that his wife had converted to Christianity. Based on this claim, which the woman categorically denied, the Chief Rabbinate notified relatives, who had already been registered as Jewish, that their Jewish status was now pending clarification.

The Rabbinate has complete control of marriage and divorce for Jews in Israel. It also holds a monopoly on kashrut certification for restaurants, and other aspects of Jewish life. There have been numerous complaints of corruption, and two former Chief Rabbis have received jail sentences. Even where there is no obvious fraud, the Rabbinate has been criticized for acting slowly, arbitrarily and expensively (both for the state and for those who require its services).

I can personally attest to this in connection to my daughter’s marriage, which was delayed for months while the Rabbinate evaluated (or didn’t bother to look at) the American documentation of her parents’ Jewishness (in the interest of full disclosure, she received assistance in the process from Rabbi Farber of ITIM).

Conversion is particularly problematic. For years the Rabbinate monopolized conversions in Israel. Since March 2016, private Orthodox conversions in Israel have been recognized by the state for the purposes of the Law of Return, but a bill is in process that will invalidate non-Rabbinate-approved conversions in the country (the state currently recognizes both Orthodox and non-Orthodox conversions abroad and the bill won’t change this). But what the state recognizes and what the Rabbinate demands for the purposes of marriage are far apart.

Conversions under the Rabbinate have always been difficult and slow, and it has even withdrawn recognition that converts are Jewish after they were caught failing to observe the commandments to its satisfaction! It also maintains a “blacklist” of Orthodox rabbis outside of Israel whose conversions it will not recognize (needless to say, no non-Orthodox conversions are recognized under any circumstances).

The Rabbinate is dominated by Haredim, and when it is not corrupt, it operates according to the strictest possible interpretation of Jewish law. Non-Haredim who deal with it often report that they are treated with contempt and/or neglect. It is one more source of friction between the observant, “traditional,” (those who don’t live a strictly observant lifestyle but consider themselves Orthodox in their beliefs), and secular populations.

There is a simple solution: abolish the Rabbinate. There is no need for it in Jewish law and alternatives abound for everything that it does. Kosher certification for restaurants can easily be provided by private organizations, and prospective customers can decide for themselves which agencies they trust. Solutions could be found for administration of cemeteries and mikvahs. The Chief Rabbis also are considered religious authorities on matters of halacha; but whether a rabbi is respected and his judgments taken seriously doesn’t depend on his position but on his reputation. There are no popes in Judaism!

Marriage and divorce are probably the areas where most Israelis come into contact with the Rabbinate, and a major source of frustration. Here the solution is simple, if drastic: The state should provide civil marriage and divorce, and those who want to avail themselves of religious ceremonies (which in Jewish law do not even require a rabbi, only witnesses) can do so. It is absurd that 20,000 Israelis each year fly to Cyprus to marry in a civil ceremony, a marriage that is then recognized by the state (although not by the Rabbinate, which may later create difficulties when the children want to marry).

Uncontrolled marriage will supposedly allow a flood of non-Jews to overwhelm our culture. In the future, it’s said, nobody will be able to tell who is Jewish and who isn’t. But throughout history there has always been a certain number of non-Jews joining the Jewish people by marriage. It’s highly unlikely that allowing civil marriages within Israel will produce a flood of, for example, Jewish-Muslim intermarriages. What it will do is permit those without documentation, like many Russian immigrants, to regularize their relationships.

It’s also argued that allowing private conversions will open the door to uncontrolled immigration. Reform rabbis, it is said, will convert thousands of illegal immigrants to Judaism so that they will be able to obtain citizenship. There are simple ways to prevent this: for example, require proof of legal residency before the state recognizes a conversion. Standards for conversion could be set by a rabbinical commission made up of rabbis from all streams of Judaism (Haredim would have to choose between joining the commission or forfeiting their influence on its product).

Supporters of the Rabbinate say that it provides a national standard for kashrut. But this isn’t true. Very observant people will check to see which rabbi issued the certificate, regardless of whether it is certified by the Rabbinate. Competition between certifying agencies would reduce the cost to restaurant operators as well as provide the public with choices based on the standard of kashrut with which they are comfortable.

This is an institution whose time is clearly past. Israel’s 6 million Jews do not all observe the same form of Judaism, and most of them are far from Haredi Orthodoxy. The institution of Chief Rabbinate is pointless for that reason, and the coercion of the non-Haredi public that results from its excessive, arbitrary and sometimes corrupt power is unacceptable.

It’s not kosher. Abolish it!

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society | Leave a comment

Ha’aretz, the newspaper that hates its country

Ha’aretz is the oldest newspaper still in print in Israel. It began life in 1918 as an organ of the British military government, but was soon taken over by left-wing Zionists. The Schocken family bought the paper in 1935; Gershon Schocken was the editor and publisher from 1939 until he died in 1990, and his son Amos (72) has been the publisher since then. Some 40% of the ownership was sold during the past decade, but the Schocken family still solidly controls the paper.

According to a survey at the beginning of last year, the Hebrew print edition of Ha’aretz reaches about 4% of Israelis each weekday, compared to almost 38% for Israel Hayom and 35% for Yediot Aharonot.  But its Hebrew and English websites – despite the fact that access to most content is not free – have 26,000 and 18,000 subscribers respectively. In a Financial Times interview last year, Amos Schocken claimed that the paper was “mildly profitable.”

The Ha’aretz editorial policy is strongly on the left. Its 4% reach corresponds roughly to the 4% of Israeli voters that voted for Meretz, the farthest-left of the Jewish parties in the Knesset.

Schocken calls himself a Zionist, but the paper’s editorials and many of its op-eds place it in the anti-Zionist, anti-Israel category. Although he believes in “Zionism [as] a viewpoint that sees the national home in the Land of Israel as a solution for the Jewish people in the framework of a democratic, Jewish state,” his understanding of “democratic” implies complete equality in almost every respect between the Jewish and non-Jewish populations. But this definition (I argue here at length) vitiates the Jewish nature of the state, and if implemented the way Schocken and his writers would like, would result in a state that was neither Jewish nor democratic.

Ha’aretz speaks for the small, even tiny, minority of Jewish Israelis that make up the extreme Left. But it has far greater influence than its circulation figures indicate. The Financial Times writer notes that

The paper and its business section, The Marker, are widely read in the Israeli elite — including by people who loathe its politics — and sets the agenda in many policy debates. Outside Israel, stories that appear online in Ha’aretz in the morning regularly work their way on to the agenda later in the day as talking points in Washington and Brussels.

Although it has a few regular columnists – Israel Harel and Moshe Arens come to mind – who could be called right wing, the paper employs such writers as the unspeakably vile Gideon Levy who accused Israeli pilots of war crimes, the Jewish Palestinian Amira Hass who believes that throwing stones at Jews is the “birthright” of Palestinians, and the anti-Zionist provocateur Rogel Alpher who advocates that Israeli Jews should emigrate, and called for a boycott of the “racist” Maccabiah Games.

Is this the image of Israel that we wish to present to decision-makers in Washington and Brussels?

Ha’aretz, particularly its English internet edition, plays a singular and important role in the international campaign to delegitimize and demonize the Jewish state. It serves as an Israeli Jewish voice to validate the worst accusations. Is Israel an “apartheid state?” Ask Hass. Does the IDF deliberately target civilians, especially children? Here is some “evidence” in a piece by Levy. Is Israel turning into an undemocratic theocracy? Here is Ha’aretz editor Aluf Benn saying so.

“You see,” say the world’s Israel-haters and antisemites? “Even Israeli Jews, writers in Israel’s oldest and most respected newspaper, agree with us.”

Schocken pays these seditious saboteurs because they represent his own views. Last year, he called for international pressure to “end Israeli apartheid.” He believes that what he and his paper are doing is a moral enterprise to “make Israel better.”

It is true that Ha’aretz sometimes exposes abuses of members of minorities in Israel. But its moral failure is shown by its completely unbalanced coverage of terrorism and incitement among the Arabs of the PA and Israel, its total failure to understand the security implications of its recommendation to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, its consistent negation of the importance of maintaining the Jewish nature of the state, its disparagement of religious people and ideas, its hatred of “settlers,” and – above all – the pure contempt shown for the only Jewish state we have by the majority of its writers.

There is room for left-wing media in Israel, much as I disagree with their positions. But there is no room for a publication that masquerades as “Zionist” while tearing down the state that gives it life.

Posted in Israeli Politics, Israeli Society, Media | 1 Comment

Deterrence or preemption?

So you are a high-ranking Iranian officer in the “wiping Israel off the map command.” You need to present a strategic approach for defeating the Little Satan. What’s your plan?

First of all, you have learned something from Israeli strategic doctrine and your own experience in the 8-year war with Iraq, and you understand that the war must not be fought on your own territory. For this reason, among others, you will utilize proxies: Hezbollah in Lebanon and various Shiite militias that you are working to locate in Syria. It would also be convenient to coordinate with Hamas, so you will support Hamas in its buildup today, even though it is associated with the Muslim Brotherhood, ultimately an enemy of Iran.

You fear, above all else, Israel’s air force. Therefore you will not try to challenge the IDF for air superiority. Instead you will attack with various forms of rockets and missiles, fired from mobile launchers, hardened underground installations, and heavily populated areas. You will invest a large amount of your resources in multiplying the number of launchers and making them as costly to destroy as possible. In this way you can overwhelm Israel’s missile defense systems and gain time to do as much damage as possible to Israel’s civilian and military infrastructure before the IAF destroys your capabilities.

At the same time, you will deploy missiles that are accurate enough to hit specific targets. Israel is a small country with a highly concentrated population. Missile defense systems will be located to protect airbases and other important facilities, but a saturation attack with accurate missiles could succeed in degrading Israel’s capability to strike at the launchers. There are other targets that could generate a great number of civilian casualties and harm to infrastructure, such as the well-known ammonia tank in Haifa, other chemical facilities, tall buildings in Tel Aviv, power plants, and more.

Israel’s weak spot, you believe, is its inability to accept casualties, either among its soldiers or on the home front. So you will try to create panic by dramatic mass-casualty attacks. In addition to the rockets, incursions by Hezbollah troops on the northern border, tunnel attacks by Hamas, and even terrorism from Judea and Samaria can be used. Large segments of the population will flee to safer places, creating chaos. The IDF will ultimately repel incursions in the North and South, but the objective will be achieved.

Thanks to the JCPOA (the nuclear deal), you have been saved from serious economic difficulty. You are also flush with cash (courtesy of American taxpayers). All that money can be used to build up rocket forces, militias, drone fleets, and everything else that you will need. You are no longer prevented from pursuing your missile and nuclear programs (the nuclear program is proceeding covertly).

There is time to build up your forces, you are convinced, because Israel is constrained by international pressure from launching a preemptive attack. During the pre-war period, you will keep up the diplomatic and propaganda pressure against Israel. The objective of this cognitive warfare attack will be to convince the public and the decision-makers worldwide that Israel is an aggressor as well as an illegitimate colonial power, so that when war does come, the Security Council, the Western Powers, Russia, and China will stay out while your forces are ascendant, but demand an immediate cease-fire when Israel prevails.

In addition, you know that Israeli decision-makers believe that even if they attack preemptively they will suffer unacceptable casualties (because any casualties are unacceptable to them). Therefore they will either allow you to strike first or wait until the last moment and try to hit you when they have absolute proof that an attack is imminent, and they have no choice.

You know that the war will be devastating for Israel and for your proxies, but Iran itself will not be directly involved. Israel will suffer mass emigration as citizens with foreign passports leave. Palestinian terrorism will increase along with their hope of success. Either the country will collapse or it will be severely weakened and on the way to collapse.

You know that you are looking forward to war and they are hoping that somehow it will be prevented.

You can relax and have a cup of coffee. Everything is proceeding according to plan. When you are strong enough, you will attack. No matter what happens then, you win.

***

If you are Gadi Eisenkot or Bibi Netanyahu, you know that an initial attack from Hezbollah’s rockets alone – they can launch up to 1000 a day – would be devastating. You know that this cannot be allowed to happen. You have been telling your population that Hezbollah is deterred from attacking by the expectation of our response, but you know that is incorrect. You know that the reason there is quiet today is that the Iranian military complex is waiting until it feels confident that it is strong enough (and is free from the complications of the Syrian war). You would like to think that you will get adequate warning from your intelligence agencies to preempt the enemy attack, but you can’t be sure.

You should know what the Iranians are thinking. You should understand that the only way to defeat their plan is to preempt their attack with overwhelming force. You will need to hit the missile batteries in southern Lebanon, Hezbollah’s command centers, weapons depots, troop concentrations near the border, and more. At the same time, you must be prepared for an attack from Hamas in the south as well. There is no doubt that no matter what you do, they will succeed in launching many rockets and carrying out terrorist attacks, and there will be casualties. You should keep in mind that it would have been ten times worse if they had been allowed to attack first. As someone recently said, “it must be a 67 and not a 73.”

But that isn’t enough. Hezbollah, Hamas and the Shiite militias are proxies for Iran, which is not deterred by threats to Lebanon or Syria. Iran has been using its time to develop its own missile forces, not to mention its nuclear program. There is close cooperation on the nuclear front between Iran and North Korea, and it is reasonable to assume that Iran already has or could quickly get equivalent capabilities. You cannot allow this threat to continue to exist. You must hit the Iranian nuclear facilities as well as its conventional military infrastructure. Yes, it would have been easier in 2012, but it didn’t happen then.

Time is not on your side. Every day that you do not preemptively attack Iran and its proxies, they get stronger. In addition, the longer you wait, the more likely it is that the enemy will attack first. The diplomatic situation is not improving, and is not likely to improve. There will certainly be great opposition to a preemptive attack, maybe even the imposition of sanctions. But the alternative is worse.

***

The greatest mistake made by Israel is to assume that deterrence has been effective until now and that it will be effective in the future. But Iran is not deterred! The regime is simply waiting for the moment at which it is ready and at which an attack would be most effective.

This is extremely important. If the enemy is deterred, then it is reasonable to continue the strategy of deterrence indefinitely. Mutual deterrence kept the US and the Soviet Union from nuclear war for almost 50 years. But if the enemy is not attacking because the time isn’t ripe, then continuing the status quo is more dangerous than upsetting it.

Our generals are managers. They have budgets and bureaucratic empires, and they like stability. They don’t want anything to happen to their assets. Most armies tend to lean toward the right; ours maybe leans a bit leftward. The generals are not anxious to fight. The PM also is extremely cautious.

But this is one of the most dangerous moments in Israel’s history, comparable to the period before the 1967 war. The war in Syria is ending and many of Iran’s strategic pieces are already in place.

We have a state today because our leaders didn’t hesitate to act at the right moment. Now is the right moment to deal with the Iranian threat to destroy our state.

Posted in Iran, War | 1 Comment

Is Bibi in trouble?

One of the most appealing things about Menachem Begin was his austere lifestyle. He owned a two-room apartment in Tel Aviv, which he refused to leave, until he became Prime Minister. After his resignation in 1983, he returned to live out the rest of his life there. Ben-Gurion had a nice house in Tel Aviv, but spent the last 10 years of his life in a small so-called “hut” on Kibbutz Sde Boker in the Negev. There was one area in which Begin spent more than Ben-Gurion – in keeping with the philosophy of  hadar propounded by his mentor, Jabotinsky – his necktie budget.

Some other Prime Ministers were less appealing in this regard. Ehud Barak was born a kibbutznik, served 35 years in the IDF and then held various political positions. In 2012 he sold a Tel Aviv apartment for about $7 million. He told an interviewer in 2015 that his net worth was close to $10-$15 million, saying that he had made good investments. I’m sure an IDF Chief of Staff is well-paid, but it’s very hard to explain his degree of success convincingly.

Today the news in Israel is full of political-financial scandal. There are at least three police investigations of PM Netanyahu going on, and it is almost certain that Sara, his wife, will be indicted for misusing funds related to the management of the PM’s official residence. A number of important officials and prior officials are being investigated for bribery in connection with the purchase of submarines and other vessels from Germany, including the former commander of Israel’s Navy. Today (Wednesday) the name of an officer that has been arrested in the affair was released, the decorated former commander of the elite Shayetet 13 unit.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, who once served 22 months of a three-year sentence for bribery, is presently being investigated by police for real estate transgressions. And of course former PM Ehud Olmert was recently released from prison after serving 16 months of a 19-month sentence for various corruption and bribery offenses.

Israel is in the Middle East, and we can blame it on that. Or perhaps we are just doing a better job of arresting and punishing corrupt politicians than some other countries. It’s hard to tell.

PM Netanyahu has maintained that the left-leaning media and legal establishment have been persecuting him, and wish to overthrow the results of a democratic election by legal maneuvers. “They won’t find anything because there isn’t anything,” he has been fond of saying. The Left insists that he deserves to be in jail and soon will be. The truth is probably somewhere in between. It will take some time before we know precisely where, in a process that is matched in its tediousness only by coalition negotiations. Personally, I think that anything he did will turn out to be small potatoes, compared to Olmert for example.

Regardless of the outcome of the investigations, I think the Israeli public is tired of Netanyahu, who has been PM since March 2009. The other day I heard a man explaining to his small child that they shouldn’t cross the street on a red light because “we are not Bibi. Bibi always crosses on red” (the child responded “who’s Bibi?”). The Right believes that he is not aggressive enough toward Hamas and Iran and that he has given in too many times to US pressure against construction in Judea and Samaria. The Left believes that he is “anti-peace,” by which they mean that he hasn’t given in enough to US pressure to make concessions to the Palestinians. Both sides are tired of his personality.

Could the corruption investigations force him out as the left-wing media hope? I doubt it. Even if the PM is indicted as a result of one or more of the investigations against him, he is not required by law to resign. And why should he? Despite the investigations, his party is rising in the polls.

Even a corrupt PM can make good decisions (consider Olmert’s bombing the Syrian nuclear reactor precisely 10 years ago). And Bibi has made a lot of good decisions, resulting in a relatively peaceful tenure, an expanding economy, and diplomatic gains. But the main thing that has kept him in power through the last couple of elections is that he is thought to be competent in matters of economics and matters of security – and his competition is not.

I think, and many Israelis agree with me, that with the war in Syria winding up, and the strengthening of Iran and its proxies – a result of the removal of sanctions and cash infusions from the nuclear deal – the chance of war involving Israel has been greatly increased. The feeling that conflict could be around the corner is widespread.

People want an experienced hand on the tiller. And security challenges tend to push people to the right. Neither Yair Lapid of Yesh Atid or Yitzhak Herzog of the Zionist Union have “security credentials.” Moshe Ya’alon, who does, launched a trial balloon to create a new party back in March, which went nowhere. Naftali Bennett, who is bound by the limited appeal of his mostly-religious party, would join a coalition with Bibi. So if a new election were called soon, the Likud and its right-wing coalition partners would probably gain seats, rather than lose them.

This isn’t a perfect world, and we don’t have a perfect Prime Minister (although he is a lot better than his opponents give him credit for).

But he may still be the best person for the job.

Posted in Israeli Politics | 2 Comments

Surprise us, Ayelet Shaked

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at a conference of the Israel Bar Association, August 29, 2017

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked speaks at a conference of the Israel Bar Association, August 29, 2017

Last Tuesday, Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked spoke at an Israeli Bar Association conference. What she said constituted an ideological manifesto of great importance, much more so than the particular issue she spoke about, the Supreme Court decision on the rights of the state versus those of illegal immigrants:

“Israel of 2017 is a country that’s constitutionally made up of crisscrossing individual rights, without its Basic Laws referencing Israel being the nation state of the Jewish people,” Shaked lamented.

“Zionism has become a blind spot for the judiciary,” she continued. “Questions concerning it have become irrelevant. National challenges are a judicial blind spot, not at all to be considered in today’s climate, and certainly not to be ruled in favor of when faced with individual rights issues.

“The question of demographics and preserving the Jewish majority are classic examples,” she explained. “Israeli [jurisprudence] doesn’t even deem them values worthy of consideration.” …

“The court’s response [to illegal immigrants] was striking down—and then striking down again—the law attempting to deal with this phenomenon,” she continued. …

At the same time Shaked sought to make clear that she doesn’t make light of those individual rights, saying she considers the system maintaining them to be “almost sacred.”

“But not devoid of context,” she clarified. “Not detached from Israeli uniqueness, our national tasks and our very identity, history and Zionist challenges. Zionism should not—and will not—bow before a system of individual rights interpreted universally in a manner detaching it from the chronicles of the Knesset and the history of legislation we’re all familiar with.”

During the 1990s, under the leadership of its president Aharon Barak, Israel’s Supreme Court took the position in various decisions (like this one) that individual rights – equality, democracy – always override the collective rights of the state as the state of the Jewish people. Barak stipulated that Jewish values are identical to the liberal humanistic ones that underlie the secular Western morality that characterizes the most progressive elements in Europe and the US. The only sense in which Israel can be a “Jewish state” from this point of view is that it has a Jewish majority and a Law of Return for Jews.

The problem with Barak’s position is that if individual rights are interpreted in the broadest sense (i.e., no distinction is made between civil and national rights) and if these rights always override the rights of the state, then the state may not be able to preserve its Jewishness. Even its continued existence could be in question.

Zionism came into being because Herzl and others understood that a necessary condition for the survival of the Jewish people was the ownership of a specifically Jewish nation-state. If the state is to be based on democratic principles, then a Jewish majority is a necessity for it to retain its Jewish nature. Protecting this majority, maintaining Jewish symbols like the flag and national anthem, and encouraging Jewish immigration are all legitimate responsibilities of the state.

The majority of citizens and Knesset members disagree with Barak. They believe that the state has a right to protect its Jewish character even if this means that non-Jews will be treated differently from Jews in some respects. I call this the “Zionist imperative.” But the legal, media, educational, cultural and artistic elite, along with left-wing and Arab members of the Knesset, are no longer (if they ever were) Zionists. This is the source of much of the political tension in Israel today.

MK Tzipi Livni clearly illustrated this divide, when she responded to Shaked saying “protecting [human rights] is also the essence of Judaism and part of Israel’s values as a Jewish and democratic state.” For Livni, as for Aharon Barak, there is no distinction (and there can be no conflict) between individual rights and the Jewishness of the state, because there is no distinction between Jewish ethics and progressive, universalistic political philosophy. Livni would be at home in an American Reform Temple. While she would call herself a Zionist, her ideology is actually inconsistent with Zionism.

Thus there is a conflict between Zionism and the universalism (see it in its fullest expression here) popular among American progressives and Israeli leftists, who are more concerned with the rights of Palestinians and illegal immigrants than Jewish residents of South Tel Aviv. Shaked clearly understands the need to balance the exercise of individual rights with the right to self-preservation of the Jewish state. Not every individual desire – particularly of non-Jewish minorities – can be treated as a “right” in the context of a small Jewish state, especially when some of the minorities take anti-Zionist and even anti-Jewish positions.

Shaked has championed the Nation-State Law which would for the first time introduce an explication of “Jewish state” into Israel’s basic laws and wants to limit the power of the left-leaning Supreme Court. She wants to deport illegal immigrants and opposes the fantastical “two-state solution.”

She has always been hated by the Left, whose members made crude sexist comments when she was appointed Justice Minister (they stopped when even some leftist female MKs defended her, and when she demonstrated her ability to do her homework and understand complex issues despite her degree in computer science rather than law). But her remarks at the Bar Association opened the floodgates of ugliness, where some lawyers shouted “apartheid.” An op-ed in Ha’aretz even called her a Nazi in so many words.

Such criticism illustrates both the stupidity and desperation of her post-Zionist opponents, who  seem unable to distinguish between civil and national rights, and who apparently do not believe that there are such things as the Jewish people’s collective right to self-determination or the state’s right of self-defense.

Ayelet Shaked is eminently qualified to be Prime Minister, in part because as a woman she has had to perform far better than her male counterparts in order to be taken seriously. But there is no clear path for her. Formerly a member of the Likud, she moved to the Jewish Home party, where she is no. 2 on the party list to leader Naftali Bennett. Jewish Home is the successor to the National Religious party, the traditional religious-but-not-Haredi opposition, and has never received enough votes to form the government.

Shaked, who is secular, was asked to join the party in order to broaden its appeal to attract non-religious right-wing voters. Nevertheless, it’s hard to imagine it being the largest or even second-largest vote getter (there are aspects of the party that are out of step with Israel’s secular majority, like the extremely socially conservative positions of some of its leaders). Even if it were, Bennett is the party leader, and Shaked has said that she would not oppose him.

Still, the combination of ideological clarity and seriousness that characterizes her is hard to resist. The era of Netanyahu, for better or worse, is coming to an end. Israel has numerous female Knesset members and has already had one woman Prime Minister.

It would be a big surprise if Shaked were to become Prime Minister.

But Israeli politics are full of surprises.

Posted in Israeli Politics | 1 Comment