Op-Ed: So Resign!
Rabbi Yosef MendelevichThe author, former Soviet refusenik and Prisoner of Zion, a leader of Soviet Jewry, was imprisoned for 11 years in the Gulag for attempting to hijack a plane to reach Israel. His autobiography, Operation Wedding, describes the story and his release in 1981.
Naftali Bennett, the leader of religious Zionism has said the words that his voters have been awaiting. He said that there was no hope of making peace with the Arabs and that the time had come to learn to live with that fact. One look at opinion polls proves that most Israelis agree with that logical and sober assessment.
As expected, the opposition uses those words as an excuse to attack the government. After all, Bennett's opinion contradicts the Prime Minister's espousal of "two states for two nations."
Members of the cabinet who hold opinions similar to Bennett's often find themselves targets of the left and have to look for ways to defend themselves. MI Zev Elkin (Likud-Beyteinu), deputy foreign minister and a member of the Lobby for Eretz Yisrael, is particularly hard-pressed at times. On the one hand, he is loyal to Eretz Yisrael. On the other, he is loyal to the government of which he is a member.
Elkin has found an original solution. He once told the media that he agrees with Bennett, but as a member of the cabinet, must be loyal to the Prime Minister.
It will be enlightening to see how far this goes if Tzipi Livni returns from current negotiations after offering to give up major parts of Eretz Yisrael.
I recall a demonstration that occurred some thirty years ago – when those against the withdrawal from the Sinai and the destruction of Yamit took to the streets. Yes, hard to remember, but there was a withdrawal before the Gush Katif debacle.
The heads of the movement called it "Stop the Withdrawal from Yamit", implying that the withdrawal might begin with Begin's initiative in Yamit, but the darkness would spread to all of Israel. I had just been freed from the Russian Gulag after 11 years of incarceration and I saw that the fight for Eretz Yisrael was not confined to Russia. It was also taking place in Israel itself.
Rabbi Chaim Druckman spoke at the demonstration. He had just been appointed Deputy Minister of Education. He must have spoken against the withdrawal, but suddenly a voice was heard from the crowd, shouting, "So resign!" It was then-head of the Philosophy Department at Hebrew Unviersity, the late Professor Yisrael Eldad, who had been a commander in the pre-state underground "Etzel ". Rabbi Druckman continued to speak against withdrawal and once again a voice rang out: "So resign!!" This went on and on, until Rabbi Druckman could not withstand the pressure and announced to everyone present, "I am resigning".
Rabbi Druckman understood the problem and Professor Eldad simply helped him define the ethical truisim that if one is against the policies of the government, one cannot be a member of it. It is important to note that the position of Deputy Minister of Education does not involve foreign affairs and possibly Rabbi Druckman did not even have to resign, as in fact, it was hoped that he would make his presence felt in changing various inequities in the Education Ministry.
Remember? The right is in power!
That's not the case in other cabinet positions, such as Deputy Foreign Minister and actually, acting Foreign Minister. That involves daily activity in political spheres. Here we see the toethe-line factor come into play, similar to that of a soldier who obeys orders with which he doesn't agree.
But wait a minute – Mr. Elkin is not a soldier, not an officer, he is a commander. No one forced him to run for the Knesset or accept his cabinet post. Nothing keeps him from doing what Rabbi Druckman did if that act is called for. The same goes for the other rightist government members.
I have been searching for another Professor Eldad, who can explain the simple fact, one that doesn't require degrees in ancient Greek philosophy to comprehend: "You can't be an insider and feel like an outsider". (And by the way, Professor Eldad's son, the former MK, Plastic Surgery Professor Arye Eldad, was a fellow member of the Eretz Yisrael Lobby with Elkin).
I have nothing against Mr. Elkin. On the contrary, I respect him as an extraordinarily talented person – witness his meteoric rise from member of Olmert's party to deputy minister in Netanyahu's government. In this article, he is being used here as a prototype – there are others about whom the same should be written.
Besides, we expect more of those who are especially talented. And he is just an example. This is not only about Deputy Minister Elkin or even about Defense Minister Ayalon. All of Likud-Beyteinu, or almost all of the party faction, is made up of rightists who received voter support because of their views. The Eretz Yisrael Lobby is made up almost totally of government representatives rather than opposition members.
Remember? The right is in power!
So how do we explain the fact that with all the words and the power, there is almost no building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, 104 murderers are being freed, the Defense Minister allows violent arrests in the area as well as destruction and Tsipi Livni is our chief negotiator with Mahmoud Abbas.
I would call it the "Elkin Syndrome" i.e. "I disagree, but the Prime Minister thinks differently". This is a very dangerous syndrome, a possibly fatal disease, that must be overcome.
We really need a new Professor Yisrael Eldad at the right moment - someone who will not be afraid to shout "get up and resign!!"