Will the Right Wing Bloc Split?

Analysis: Likud-Kadima talks on hareidi army service could falter because of Arab enlistment issue.

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Gil Ronen,

Hareidi man, IDF soldiers at Kotel
Hareidi man, IDF soldiers at Kotel
Israel news photo: Flash 90

Coalition Chairman MK Ze'ev Elkin has pointed out to Arutz Sheva that, as regards to hareidi enlistment, there is more at stake than meets the eye. If the two largest parties, Likud and Kadima, unite around the idea of harshly punishing hareidim who do not enlist to the IDF, the result could be a deep rift between Likud and the hareidi parties.

This would have wide repercussions for Israeli society and for political alignments in Israel on many levels.

In essence there are two competing identities fighting for supremacy here: One is the "Israeli first" identity that is strong among secular Israelis, which sees the state – and very little else – as sacred, and military service as the way in which the Israeli citizen shows his allegiance to that "sanctity."

The other is the "Jewish first" identity, that sees Torah values as the base upon which everything else rests, including the state of Israel and the military.

The "right wing bloc" of which Elkin speaks essentially welds these two sanctities together. It unites the forces of the modern "Israeli first" sector with the traditionalist "Jewish first" public and says that there is no real contradiction between the two, and that the differences will be smoothed out over time, as secular Israeli society opens up to its traditional values and as hareidi society opens up to the Israeli world around it.

Agreement between Likud and Kadima would mean that a new ideological bloc has superseded the right wing bloc. This new bloc sees the modern state and military service as top values and wants to force its vision on the "Jewish first" bloc. This, in the end, is what forcing hareidim to serve in the military in a way that humiliates them means.

The issue that could prevent a Likud-Kadima deal is the one brought up by Yisrael Beytenu and the Jewish Home: unlike Kadima, these parties want Arabs to pay a price, too, and not just hareidim. Likud has adopted this demand as well. This issue expresses the common ground between the "Israeli first" and the "Jewish first" identities, because it reminds Jews that being Jewish is both a religion and a nationality, and that the state of Israel must not humiliate hareidi Jews by forcing them to change while giving the Arabs – an increasingly violent and hostile minority – a free pass.

Jewish national pride, which is manifest in the Torah and also in the existence of Israel and its army, is the uniting force expressed by Yisrael Beytenu and the Jewish Home on this issue, and since this is such a potent force, it could mean that Kadima and Likud will find it very hard to unite around a new version of the law for enlisting hareidim. Even if they do unite around an enlistment bill, the unification may prove to be short lived.