A last desperate plea for Israeli MKs not to mess up

Election #4 resulted in 65 seats for Israel political conservatism, respect for tradition and religion, honor for Jewish culture, and a move towards honest higher-court justice. Don't blow it!. Op-ed.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer ,

Nir Barkat
Nir Barkat
Arutz Sheva
For the first time in my life of Jewish activism and even Jewish militancy, a life that goes back publicly more than half a century to the Soviet Jewry movement, the movement to free Jews from Arab lands, the Ethiopian Jewry movement, and endless advocacy for Israel’s rights to East Jerusalem and the Golan, the Sinai, Judea and Samaria — for the first time in my life it seemed that some really important final parts of the battle of half a century are about to be won, the deal sealed.

Election #4 resulted in 65 seats for Israel political conservatism, respect for tradition and religion, honor for Jewish culture, and — finally — a move towards honest higher-court justice.

-Six Israeli supreme court justices — five of the Left and one of a more conservative bent — are going to be out and replaced in the next three years. It is a moment for which we have waited since the country’s founding.

-Meanwhile, in Judea and Samaria there now are more than 130 Jewish communities, populated by more than 475,000 with another 325,000 Jews in East Jerusalem; that is 800,000 Jews across the “Green Line.” The so-called “Two-State Solution” thus is dead as a door knob because — even for the fools who have not learned from Israel’s cessions of Gush Katif, the rest of Gaza, and South Lebanon — it is logistically impossible to uproot and relocate nearly a million Israeli Jews.

-Third, the Hamas War just fought — and perhaps not over — establishes that Israel now can fight back with attack weapons so precise that eleven days of fighting an enemy whose weapons are based in hospitals, mosques, residential apartment buildings, and school buildings still results in fewer than a hundred civilian deaths. So the West — even Biden and Germany — can relax in a way they would not when Israel could not avoid killing thousands collaterally to take out Hamas’s deadly infrastructure.

There is more that is good at this crossroads in time. After a century and more, dating to pre-state, the majority of Israelis now — finally — get it. If it takes targeted assassinations of Hamas military minds, Iranian nuclear scientists, and others of that ilk — so be it. America did it to Osama Bin Laden, Qassem Soleimani, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. So it is now “kosher l’mehadrin” (acceptable to the highest degree) to Israelis to neutralize the masterminds of evil.

Moreover, the street riots in the “mixed cities” like Lod, Ramle, Akko (Acre), and Yafo (Jaffa) finally have proven the truths spoken out loud by former leading Israeli Generals Raful Eitan and Rehavam "Gandhi" Ze'evi, truths likewise whispered behind closed doors by decades of Israeli Knesset members in the Likud and other conservative parties, truths uttered in Shabbat sermons and amid table talk among MKs in the religious parties, and throughout Avigdor Liberman’s Russian-Ukrainian secular contingents. These newly rediscovered truths all are variations on the warnings of a certain villified rav who moved to Israel from Brooklyn half a century ago, only that the truths are more digestible when spoken and understood in manners substantively and figuratively more nuanced and genteel. But the myth that all Saracens and their descendants born within the Green Lines are just one big happy family with the Jews — some kind of “Patty Duke Show” where “cousins are two of a kind” — now is dispensed.

Israel is at a wonderful moment in its history. The pandemic may be over in Israel. More actual Jews today live in Israel than in all the rest of the world combined and, as Ambassador Yoram Ettinger demonstrates, the demography only gets better as Jewish birthrates rise — even among the non-Haredi and secular — and Arab birthrates plummet, while Jewish immigration always continues in, and Arab emigration to Dearborn, Michigan flows out.

Israeli technology blows the rest of the world out of the water. Consider: No other country besides pre-Mandela South Africa, not even Hitler Germany, ever has faced the kind of international boycotting of its very existence that Israel faces. All the apostate Jewish professors on Western campuses, plus the self-identifying Jewish Israel-haters who are not even Jewish, plus the historically consistent world-wide agglomeration of non-Jewish haters all combine to promote BDS. And yet Israel’s economy not only thrives but is one of the leading profit centers in the world for international trade.

How wonderful! Jew-hater Stephen Hawking, whose soul now has all of eternity to contemplate its own black hole, tried to promote an international boycott of Israel, but the hapless Jew-hater could not avoid purchasing the most expensive of medical equipment made in Israel so that he could communicate and remain alive. So they boycott Bamba and Bisli, but make exceptions for CAT scans, GPS, Intel chips, and all.

Darn it, we have 65 seats for a conservative government that is friendly to the authentic Jewish religion and do not even need Liberman and his nonsense, and yet are about to lose a moment in destiny that we have waited all our lives to see: the right-wing government that can “seal the deal.” The government that can change the court’s direction legally, that can solidify Area C of Oslo II and can keep building to reach one million Jews in the combined East Jerusalem and additional Judea and Samaria populations, the government that can prepare for the next set of major economic and military challenges.

And we are going to lose it all because Gideon Sa’ar hates Bibi Netanyahu that much, and Naftali Bennett is right behind him. And — y’know what? — I get it. But . . .

But if a quasi-miracle does not disrupt the apparent flow this week, then it will be lost by June 2 — in just two more days or so. And so my last desperate idea as to how not to mess everything up — and I totally defer to anyone who can suggest better:

I know that living in America, I may not have the right to say this, and I know it is unfair, but I think they all have to sit down and agree to make Nir Barkat prime minister. He is not my first, second, or fifth choice. But he is the guy. We have a Likud where Netanyahu has back-stabbed many of his own people over the years, and where so many of them are power hungry egotists, where some have turned on him with the rage of a bull in the arena seeing red (although many more have remained loyal to him) and none seems interested in seeing a therapist: Zev Elkin, Naftali Bennett, Avichai Mandelblit, Avigdor Liberman, Gideon Sa’ar, Benny Gantz, Yoaz Hendel, Zvi Hauser, and who knows who else, each for a different reason.

Barkat, though, is intriguing. In the prior government, which had a cabinet ministry for every Israeli boy over the age of 13 and girl over age 12 — it seemed that Bibi and Gantz even were giving out ministries as bar mitzvah gifts — Barkat got double-crossed. Whereas every other serious Likud MK got a ministry — down to Elkin getting the Ministry of High School, Water, and Silly Walks — Barkat is the only top-tier Likud leader (i) who, like the fourth little piggy, got none; but miraculously (ii) did not turn on Netanyahu in revenge and form his own party or join someone else’s. He may just be a mentsch, one of the few and would not challenge Netanyahu, who he said is the elected leader, but waited patiently.

For that reason, Barkat is a perfect compromise Prime Minister. It is undeniable from the prior shut-out that he is not in Bibi’s pocket, and Bennett and Sa’ar know that. He owes Bibi nothing. Barkat is a thoroughly competent governmental chief executive, having been a very successful mayor of Jerusalem for ten years. He is a proven excellent business executive. He was a paratrooper and was wounded in Lebanon. He founded a successful high-tech company that specializes in antivirus software. He was a panelist on Israel’s equivalent of “Shark Tank.” He is worth over $125 million so can afford to buy his own cigars and champagne.

No, he is not the religious presence I wish he were. As mayor of Jerusalem, he got along with opponents as far left as Meretz and opened parking lots on Shabbat as well as other controversial issues, but eventually he worked with the religious parties well enough, supported public signs for modesty, stood publicly against “Women of the Wall” and their desecrations at the Kotel, focused on free-market economic principles, and famously emerged as “Batman” to personally subdue an Arab terrorist about to stab a Jew.

Let Barkat be Prime Minister for four years. He is a perfect compromise. Or let Sa’ar and Bennett work out the details; I can’t do everything for them. They have 65 seats. This way they won’t be sitting under Netanyahu. Bibi will have to step down, which will happen anyway this week. It is what it is. Name a tough right-wing Justice Minister — Ayelet Shaked, Sa’ar, Amir Ohana, I don’t care. Let Bennett be Defense Minister; he was excellent in that role. Let Yuli Edelstein be Speaker of the Knesset again — because it will make Meretz and Labor crazy. Give the Education portfolio to Smotrich. Instead of making Ben-Gvir a cabinet minister, just require Bennett to have a framed photo of Ben-Gvir in his living room. Shas and UTJ could get their usual ministries and committees. Let Hendel get Communications; he’s good at that. Give something to Yisrael Katz.

Seriously, let Barkat be the prime minister. In all my writings I never before have suggested that, but I hate watching Israel’s opportunity of a life time wasted. Compromise candidates sometimes are very good. James Polk ended up expanding America like crazy and winning all his wars. James Garfield was en route to being one of America’s greatest presidents until a nut job interfered. Truman was OK. For goodness sakes, Lincoln was not nominated by the Republicans until the trade-offs and compromises of the third ballot in 1860.

Otherwise, Israel faces a government that will be worse than a fifth or fiftieth election, a government eventually headed by Yair Lapid, incorporating Labor and Meretz, and standing by the good graces of Mansour Abbas’s Muslim Brotherhood-associated Ra’am party. That would be a governmental house divided against itself that cannot stand and that will waste a chance of a life time. It just cannot be.