SiA Cease-Fire, Now
By Sivan Rahav-Meir
Over the past month, I spent one Shabbat in New York, another in London, and still another in Jerusalem. The words of the kiddush were the same in each place – yet, surprisingly, so were the words of the small talk.
An amazing thing happened in New York: My interlocutor began a conversation about the crazy, extremist, impossible political system. “There is no stability, everyone is shouting, everything is in tumult. Where has the self-evident consensus of our nation gone?” he said, lamenting the situation. I was sure that he was talking about our system, but he was talking about his own.
The Democratic Party is becoming extremist, he said, and is drifting in an anti-Israel direction. Biden, its leader, is a supporter of Israel, but many, including my interlocutor, see him as insufficiently functional and competent. “Every time he stands in front of a camera, I’m terribly afraid of a blunder,” he said. According to the latest poll, only 37 percent of the Democrats themselves want the 80-year-old Biden, the oldest President in American history, for a second term. About Trump and Trumpism nothing need be said.
Something else happened in London. “Don’t talk about the whole political mess,” my hostess said before one of my lectures. “No problem,” I said. “I won’t go into the judicial reform at all.” She did not understand what I was talking about. “I was referring to the situation here,” she said. “Three prime ministers within two months….”
Indeed, living as I do in a country that has had five elections in three years, I had not noticed that the situation in London was also unstable. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government is in trouble. Hundreds of thousands of workers are on strike, emergency rooms are collapsing, the economy is in crisis. Sunak’s predecessor, Liz Truss, who served for only 49 days, started her term after Boris Johnson resigned.
Global politics are having a hard time functioning. It is acceptable to blame the era of the social networks, and Twitter in particular. Would the Netanyahu-Gantz government have lasted longer without them? And what will happen to the current government? Can any Israeli government, in any composition, act with stability and efficiency in the current public climate?
Once upon a time, the news was broadcast once a day, at eight o’clock in the evening, with brief hourly newscasts summing up the day’s events. Today, Almog Cohen broadcasts live from the Knesset plenum, and anyone who tweets is king. Once upon a time, we would meet the voter base at campaign rallies instead of all day long on the feed.
I have no solution for the politics of New York or London, but here, this week, people have finally begun to come together in consensus. After all, it was obvious that this would happen in the end. It is a shame that we will get to that point exhausted and defeated, after damaging the country and fueling a great deal of hatred. What kind of nadir will we sink to here before our leaders start to calm things down?
Perhaps we should be asking a different question: Will the public reward those who help everyone down from their high horse? Maybe it will be Gantz, alongside Eizenkot. Maybe it will be Levin and Rothman, and maybe Netanyahu himself. Maybe it will be Herzog. Maybe it will be all of them together. Will we be wise enough to appreciate the responsible adults who manage to counter the destructive algorithm of this era even as they take tons of flak on Twitter?
While we were busy fighting, other dramas took place here over the past several days. We ought to be talking about them, too.
The Knesset passed – on preliminary reading, unanimously, with no nays or abstentions – a bill to abolish the statute of limitations on sexual crimes against minors. This is so very important. It is beyond belief that someone who harmed a child should benefit and continue living his life while the victim, who took years to recover and decide to act, cannot file a complaint and demand justice. After all, sometimes it takes a long time to understand what happened, go through therapy, and gather courage. MK Efrat Rayten of Labor submitted the bill with emotion, and Minister Yariv Levin took the podium to explain why the government supported it. All this took place while Hila Tzur, who became known for her struggle to sue her brother for his dreadful crimes even many years after the fact, sat in the plenum.
The Knesset gave us another such moment only two weeks before. By a huge majority – 94 in favor versus 10 against – it passed the bill to revoke the citizenship of terrorists who held Israeli ID cards, who receive payment from the Palestinian Authority while in prison. It is inconceivable that today there are Israeli citizens who murder Jews, sit in jail, receive a salary from Abu Mazen for it, and then are released to continue living peacefully in Israel.
Things happened in the skies as well. Oman announced for the first time that it would permit Israeli aircraft to fly in its airspace, and the first such flight took off last week. Somehow, this item was relegated to the tourism and aviation sections. This transformation is taking place thanks to the strenuous efforts of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and despite Iran’s pressure on Oman. In giving such permission, Oman joins Saudi Arabia, which began allowing Israeli aircraft to fly in its airspace last July. This move lowers the prices and shortens the length of Israeli flights to the Far East (does Thailand have room for more Israeli tourists?). From now on a flight to India, for example, will take the same amount of time as a flight to London. The Far East has just become less far away.
It means other things as well. Foreign airline companies will enter Israel for the first time thanks to the shortened route. El Al is considering bringing back direct flights to India, as well as starting a direct flight to Australia for the first time. In fact, little Israel is becoming a major transit point between Asia and Europe.
Now, you can go back to fighting.]