Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer
Rabbi Prof. Dov FischerCourtesy
The Israeli Presidency historically has been almost as unilaterally Leftist-awful as the Supreme Court. Even when Likud has been indisputably in power, the Left repeatedly has maintained a virtual monopoly on the Israeli Presidency. Before 1977 and the Begin Revolution, the right did not have the Knesset votes to contend seriously for the presidency. However, even as the Likud and religious parties gained increased Knesset strength, Leftist Israeli presidents like Shimon Peres repeatedly have emerged. Not just “The Left” — but actual Labor Party stalwarts and party leaders like Peres.

The two exceptions to Leftist domination were the incredibly ill-fated Katsav presidency and that of Reuven Rivlin, a nice enough guy, but no Likud stalwart. Truth to tell — and everyone knew it — Rivlin was a “Never Bibi” antagonist who, though no Leftie, could not abide the democratically elected leader of the right and hated him every bit as much as do Lapid, Gantz, Sa’ar, Elkin, Bennett, Liberman, and all the other leaders of the “Hate Bibi Fan Club.”

It consistently has amazed me that, of all the right-wing Jews in Israel, including brilliant and dignified professors and world-famous scholars and even Nobel Prize laureates, no serious candidates ever emerge from the right to contend for the Israeli presidency. The thing is, although it is supposed to be, the Presidency of Israel is not just an afterthought, a meaningless ceremonial position like being the modern-day Queen or King of England, or the classroom monitor in first grade in charge of maintaining order for five minutes while the teacher has to “talk to a man about a horse.” Now, as the latest iteration of this Likud incompetence, we have a guy who literally was the head of the Left-wing Labor Party for years and years, now posing as a political neutral.

How can someone who has staked out his public career as a leader — even as the leader — of the party built on Marxist and other socialist principles, a totally left-of-center ideology that repeatedly finds Knesset allies among the likes of Meretz, be expected to be a “neutral” during a most dramatic political period in the history of his nation? He cannot be a neutral; it is just not in him, and he is true to himself. Give Buji that.

President Herzog is a patriot. One can acknowledge fairly that people on the opposite side of the political aisle are patriots, too. He believes as passionately in Israel as does any other true patriot. He is not the one urging that money be taken out of the country. And a good thing, that. No sooner did all the Hi-Tech, Hi-Arrogance Lefties threaten and then start pulling their millions out of Israel and parking that cash in America to teach Netanyahu and Smotrich a lesson they never would forget than they raced with frenzy, frantically begging and crying to Bibi and to Smotrich to help them get their vanished deposits back out of America and back to Israel. The traveling money did not even have time to take advantage of its visa. And no sooner did former United States Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke predict that judicial reform would lead to disaster for Israel’s financial markets than Moody’s turned around and downgraded America’s financial markets, while maintaining Israel’s rating.

So Herzog is a patriot. He is not the one who encouraged reservists to refuse to serve. And, honestly — “just between us girls,” as Joan Rivers used to say — is it surprising that Leftist reservists jumped on that boycott bandwagon as soon as the idea got floated on the Left? So many in Israel grumble under their breath at the national imperative to do milu’im, and many avoid it anyway and the stepping away from the family and normal daily life — but it has got to be done “just in case.” So, since the odds in any given week or month are that the reserves will not be called up, one can see that the sudden Leftist “boycott” of reserve duty is not distant from men declaring to their wives a one-month boycott and refusal to take out the garbage on Thursday nights unless and until the Coalition drops judicial reform.

Again, it’s like the Left-wing anti-religious secularists who berate “the Orthodox” for “avoiding military duty” and then, when their kids hit age 16 or 17, the family suddenly moves to America “for a business opportunity” — just before Tzav Rishon (the call to report) arrives for their late-teen in the mail.

Still, although Herzog is a true patriot, though misguided politically throughout most of his life, and loves Israel as deeply as anyone, he is no neutral. As president, his job demands that he pose as a neutral. And Harrison Ford’s job has demanded of him that he pose as Indiana Jones — and now he has to do it again at age 81. But — news flash! — Harrison Ford is not really Indiana Jones. Paul Newman was not really Ari Ben Canaan (nor even Jewish). And President Herzog is not really a neutral.

It was only a matter of time before the mask would come off. (It slipped the night of the memorial for Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook when he took sides on a conroversial issue and was booed) He tried his best to act the impartial part by urging the parties to meet and negotiate at his office. I don’t know how that would have been possible. To meet, Jews need cake. You can’t ask Jews to sit and talk for hours without offering them cake. But the Prime Minister of Israel is on trial for receiving cigars and champagne. Is cake safer to accept as a gift in return for talking? Maybe sponge cake. Definitely not Marzipan Bakery chocolate rugelach — obvious grounds of taking bribes and breach of trust. Just ask the Attorney-Dictator-General. And she might well be the sort to say “Let them eat cake.”

So President Herzog now has offered this “sh’vil ha-zahav” (“Golden Mean” or “Golden Path”):

1. He makes a speech in a fiercely angry tone and uses angry words. He speaks of impending civil war. That helps calm the atmosphere.

2. He proposes that the Attorney-General maintain the role of dictator instead of advisor (even though the job title is “Yo’etz[et] Mishpatit” — Legal Advisor) and that all the bureaucrats assigned to be legal advisors to elected governmental officers continue to be mini-dictators, too, whose opinions shall be treated as fiats that must be obeyed.

3. He proposes an 11-person judicial selection committee that continues to give extensive power to judges to self-perpetuate. He gives them three of the seats. The majority coalition gets four seats, and the opposition gets two seats. And two more get appointed to the committee subject to the Leftist Court’s approval. It would take 7 of the 11 committee members to approve a new justice for the Court, and at least one of the seven has to be a Supreme Court justice. So if the right-wing is in the majority, they are outweighed 7-4. And if they are not in power, the right wing is outweighed 9-2. Thus, the Court continues self-perpetuating a Left-wing judiciocracy under Buji’s proposal.

4. It would just take 8 of 15 Supreme Court justices to overrule the Knesset, a bare court majority. The Leftist head of court would put together an 11-justice panel, and 8 of them would need to vote to overturn the Knesset. But, although 8 of 11 seems like 72 percent, it actually is a bare 53 percent because the Leftist head of Court will name a panel that is carefully crafted. So it is not 8 of 11 committee members, but 8 of 15 justices from whom mostly leftists are named to the committee.

And what about “standing”?

And what about “justiciability”?

And what about “reasonableness” when judging typical matters?

So let us honor President Herzog’s rich biography. He was Government Secretary from 1999-2001, under Israel’s second-most-incompetent Prime Minister, the Leftist Ehud Barak who would go on to come out as a Meretz Extreme Leftist. (OK, for those wondering, the answer is: Ehud Olmert.) Then Buji was a Labor Party Knesset member for sixteen years from 2003-2018. He was Chairman of the Labor Party from 2013-2017. He was Leader of the Knesset Opposition — the position now held by Yair Lapid — and led the fight against Netanyahu and Likud from 2013-2018. He was Labor Party candidate for prime minister in 2015.

A neutral?

Ten days after he was elected to head Labor, Buji met with Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) to pledge his fealty to the “Two State Solution.” In all, he has devoted more than twenty years of public life to opposing and fighting Netanyahu.

How could anyone have imagined this fellow would have stayed neutral while his mentor, the Meretz leftist Ehud Barak, has been giving interviews on CNN to attack Bibi and judicial reform overseas? Or that he would change after twenty years?

In truth, the blame falls not on Buji. He is what he is and what he always has been, an electoral has-been. The blame falls on a Likud that repeatedly has failed to put forth superior candidates for President of Israel, even though such people exist and the right has had the votes to elect a person of right-wing substance, dignity, and stature.

And yet, despite it all, this too shall pass over, hopefully by Passover.

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