There is an old expression about "a house divided against itself" and that is what I see every time I read of another declaration by a representative of another faction in the new Israeli government coalition. I wonder to myself for how long this can go on? How long will opposing forces and conflicting dynamics be able to hold out?
New Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett declared that his coalition of eight dissonant political parties will last for its full four year term. But how is that possible when almost every other day another member of another of the factions he chairs comes out with yet another contradictory announcement and policy? This state of affairs cannot last long by the laws of logic and is a political explosion waiting to happen.
It seems that for now the Prime Minister has adopted a pattern of behavior that can be described as "turning a blind eye" or " turning a deaf ear" to his political partners in the new coalition when they make outlandish and outrageous pronouncements. He lets everyone have their say and day, in the media and in the court of public opinion. Bennett's mind seems to work something like this:
"So-and-so from such-and-such a party in my coalition just said outrageous thing xyz!"
"Let them say what they want, because sticks and stones will break my bones but words will never harm me!"
"So let them huff and puff and try to blow my house down, but I will survive all the things said by my political odd bedfellows!"
"I am not intimidated by conflicting configurations and dialectical contradictions since I am a pragmatist who can harmonize opposites!"
But is this way of thinking by anyone, let alone a political leader of the one and only Jewish state of Israel something that can withstand the rigors and onslaughts of political reality in Israel?
Take a few examples of problematic pronouncements culled from recent news from Israel:
Members of the coalition's Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Arab Ra'am party have openly declared that if Israel goes to war with Hamas in Gaza, they will "bring down the government!" So what do Bennett and the other Jewish Israeli coalition politicians think when they hear this? One thing is for sure: They make no public statement expressing their surprise or shock or even disapproval. It's almost as if it's expected, that each party in this hybrid regime has the freedom to spout the most absurd and dangerous nonsense and nothing will result from it as a consequence.
Take another humdinger when the Reform rabbi representative of the Israeli Labor party says in an important religious affairs committee he heads in the Knesset, that "Reform does not have a chief rabbi so he does not believe in the need for a chief rabbinate" in Israel, turning on its head almost a century of religious and political consensus in Eretz Yisrael going back to the time when the Ottoman Turks recognized a chief rabbi followed by the British who appointed Rav Avraham Yitschak Kook as their first chief rabbi during the times of the British Mandate of Palestine.
That would be really a shocking thing to hear but if you think about it, there are also reports that the Religious Affairs Minister, a member of Bennett's own Yamina party is reported as telling the current Israeli Chief Rabbis that "while he respects them, he disagrees with them" and seeks to privatize the critical areas of Kashrut, conversion, allowing civil marriages and permitting mass disregard for public Shabbat observance -- all breakdowns in the domain of what is known as "the status quo" in Israel since the inception of the state.
No one else in the government objects when Finance Minister and head of the Yisrael Beyeinu party, who was previously an impoverished immigrant from the former communist USSR, decides to target and cut benefits to young haredi Kollel (post-graduate Torah scholar) families refusing their children subsideized day care benefits from the state.. The entire spectrum of haredi, both Sefardic and Hasidic rabbis and Religious Zionist yeshiva heads have condemned this action as one of pure spite and hate against the haredi world in Israel. Rav Chaim Kanievsky, the revered haredi rabbi of the Lithuanian world and the Degel HaTorah faction of United Torah Judaism in Israel, has gone so far as to declare that anyone who has a hand in this type of discrimination against Torah learners will go to Gehinom (Hell).
But of course neither the Finance Minister in question nor his putative boss and colleagues in the new coalition say or do anything to rein in the harsh decrees against Torah learners. In fact, the minister retorts by quoting a passage from Maimonides about the importance of earning a living and not living off of charity to learn Torah full time. Suddenly he is an expert in Torah authorities and sources while at the very same time he is the most ardent promoter of worthless conversions to Judaism for many of the doubtful non-Halakhic Jews from the former Soviet Union, many of whom have emigrated to Israel solely to live off of the largess of Israel's state and economy.
The said minister is also the biggest proponent of undermining traditional Jewish marriages by lobbying for civil marriages in Israel. He pushes for the abrogation of Shabbat observance by allowing unlimited public transportation and shopping on Judaism's most holy day observed by Jews for millennia. He knows to quote Maimonides when it suits him to the haredim, but when it comes to his own constituency the rules of Judaism do not seem to apply to him and his supporters.
Does Bennett respect the flag of Israel? Of course. A flag is the symbol of a nation. But where was Bennett when the leader of the post-Zionist Meretz party and Health Minister who is gay posts the multi-colored gay pride flag in the halls of the Knesset defying Knesset rules and protocol? Where are Bennett and all the Kippa-wearing people in his government that denotes that they are religious when the Foreign Minister and head of the Yesh Atid party orders the Israeli foreign ministry and Israeli embassies worldwide to fly the gay pride flag? Is this now a Jewish and Zionist ideal? The Foreign Minister is proud that his main deputy is gay and he proudly tells the world that Israel is now not just tolerant of this but is in the forefront of promoting this very old abomination, as the Torah calls it.
Do the very Zionist Defense Minister of the Blue and White party, the Justice Minister of the New Hope party and the Interior Minister of the Yamina party and other more conservative and nationalist ministers and all those previously connected with Netanyahu in the past also agree with the ultra-liberal and even extreme post-and anti-Zionist sentiments and statements of the anti-Zionist Arab Raam party and the post-Zionist Marxist Meretz and Labor parties? And do many of the more conservative ministers who have a record of being positive towards the Torah and haredi communities in Israel agree with the actions of the anti-haredi Finance Minister and the outspoken Foreign Minister who waves the gay pride flag as if it was the flip side of the Israel flag?
There is the turnaround regarding the Temple Mount and the delay in carrying out the Supreme Court decision that mandated destroying an illegal Arab town - and more..
All this is just from "Kremlin watching" and reading reports in the media. What goes on behind closed doors may be even scarier.
Bennett is performing a juggling act with eight political parties as hot potatoes, something that cannot go on indefinitely.
Sooner or later, and probably sooner than later, one or more of the hot potatoes will drop or collide in mid-air causing an irretrievable breakdown of this political marriage with its irreconcilable differences.
Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin is president and founder of the Jewish Professionals Institute. An alumnus of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and Teachers College, Columbia University, he has dedicated his life to Jewish outreach and education, served for 7 years as full-time director of Sinai Heritage Centers in Manhattan and 3 as an AJOP trustee, .among many oher endeavors.