Rabbis and Politics

Do Rabbis have a role in expressing opinions of political issues--and what is it?

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Rabbi Eliezer Melamed,

מצווה. הרב מלמד
מצווה. הרב מלמד
פלאש 90



With all due respect, Rabbi, how can you write that the building freeze won't enhance Israel's security, but only cause damage? Rabbi, do you have any idea what tremendous threats the Prime Minister has to deal with?! We're talking about threats of atomic weapons, and other threats that we don't even know about! He is under indescribable pressure! The fact is that there were previous Prime Ministers from the right-wing who also couldn't stand up to American pressure. Instead of condemning the Prime Minister and casting doubt on his ability to lead, you should have strengthened and praised him for not having agreed to withdraw in the meantime. In the current situation, rabbis should pray for the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel, and leave the national and security issues to the political leaders.


In your question lies the basic assumption that rabbis are a certain unique type of people for whom it is forbidden to state their opinion on public matters, while at the same time, everyone else is allowed to express their feelings on any topic they desire. The rabbi's sole task is to pray and make halachic decisions concerning kashrut in the kitchen and similar issues. At first, I didn't think there was a need to relate to such strange arguments. However, after I received a number of similar responses, I realized that the plague of foolishness had begun to spread, and perhaps it was worthwhile to address the issue.


The Prime Minister


The political positions of the Left-wing are serious, and they must be debated seriously. However, to claim that there are threats that only the Prime Minister knows about, and that we should admire him and agree to all his capitulations is utter stupidity.

The Prime Minister knew everything before he was elected. He had previously served as Prime Minister and was already familiar with all the different types of pressures applied to the State of Israel. He also knew about Israel's national security situation – he even wrote books on the subject and distributed them throughout the world. On the basis of his knowledge and political positions, he asked for the trust of the public, while promising to continue building in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and claiming he would not agree to the establishment of a Palestinian state. Why should we speak positively of him now? On the contrary, let him apologize and explain why he lied when he was running for election the second time. In addition, it would be nice to know who he's lying to now – the American's? The Left? To his voters? Or perhaps all the answers are correct. He lies to everyone – maybe even to himself?


Why He Changes His Mind


In my estimation, nothing substantial changed in the security situation. Rather, before the elections Mr. Netanyahu realized that in order to get elected Prime Minister, he needed to declare that he would continue to build in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, and oppose a Palestinian state. At this time, according to Mr. Netanyahu's evaluation, if he rejects America's demands, pressure upon him will intensify internally (the media and the Supreme Court) and externally, to the point where he won't be able to be re-elected. He tells himself: "The existence of the State of Israel is dependent on my remaining Prime Minister, for who can care for Israel's security and prosperity better than me? Therefore, it's preferable to concede a little – provided that I remain Prime Minister. And if afterwards there's a need to concede a little more, and a little more, and a little more – we'll do it, as long as I continue to serve as Prime Minister" – all for the best of the nation, of course.

If Netanyahu was sure that if he didn't immediately start building in Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, he would never be Prime Minister again – he would declare instantly, in front of the entire world, that the building would continue forever.


Terms of Analysis


Although I believe my analysis is correct, there is still a need to relate to the claim that perhaps there are some dangers which the Prime Minister is aware of, and we, the simple citizens, are not. However, the Prime Minister is not the only person who is acquainted with the State of Israel's security situation. Serving in the government are a number of ministers who are well aware of Israel's security and international state of affairs, and they claim that Netanyahu is mistaken, and endangering the State of Israel. Amongst them are former Chief of Staff Moshe Yalon, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, and former Foreign Minister, Silvan Shalom.

Beyond this, in order to find ways to deal with the lurking dangers facing the State of Israel, it is essential to understand the roots of the conflict between Israel and her neighbors, which requires a broad and profound world outlook. And in this area, ministers and generals have no advantage whatsoever. Indeed, they are more familiar with the details, but in general, they lack the spiritual foundation to understand the deeper motives which lead nations to war and peace. The rabbi's are precisely the one's who can better understand this.

Why should we be humble and hide our position when generally our evaluations were more accurate than those of the so-called experts, who erred and deceived?


The Atomic Threat


Anyone who thinks that by conceding to the pressures of the Obama government, he will receive aid in the destruction of the Iranian atom is deceiving himself.The American's have their own interests, and they act accordingly, just as they did in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Iraq, the American's acted mainly because of the threat to their investments in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Emirates, and in Afghanistan, because of the threat of terror. We can't complain about this – it's logical that each country acts according to their own interests.

Surely, in America there are true lovers of Israel who are ready to help Israel not only because of shared interests, but also because of shared values. Many of these supporters are Evangelical's, along with other good American's, and their influence is immense. They have a significant representation in the Congress, Senate, and the media. The overwhelming majority of government officials, however, acts according to their own personal agenda's, and as long as long as they feel the Iranian threat is not crucial to them – they won't attack Iran, and will hamper any Israeli attempt to do so.

The best way to deal with the Iranian threat and similar situations is to strengthen our deterrence capability by making our position clear: the Land of Israel is ours, we will settle and fight for it, and anyone who attacks us will pay a heavy price. This is the way to minimize the danger of war. On the other hand, the manner of Netanyahu's concessions and capitulation spurs on our enemies to obtain lethal weapons and initiate war against us.%ad%