by Uri Dromi*
The war in Ukraine and the events on Temple Mount might have obscured the sad fact that the Israeli government, an improbable “unity” coalition formed more than a year ago, is now living on borrowed time. MK Idit Silman has pulled out of the coalition, leaving it with only 60 MKs. One or two more defectors might bring about the end of this government, and then Israel will be thrown into yet another election campaign, with all its schmutz, incitement, paralysis and waste of money, only to likely wind up with the same draw again.
Strangely enough, the current government, which brought to the table presumably impossible partners, has managed to function quite well. Of course, it did nothing on the most important thing – the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – but frankly, being a government built on compromise between its diametrically opposed members, there was only so much it could do. The Palestinians, from their end, didn’t seem to help either, with incitement against Israel still going strong in their schools and media.
On the domestic front, however, the Bennett government made things happen. First and foremost, unlike the erratic and panic-stricken conduct of the Netanyahu government during the first COVID-19 year, which caused many businesses to collapse due to the lockdowns, this government managed to fight the plague while letting the economy and the people breathe. Furthermore, it seems that the ministers have been more interested in carrying out their duties vis-a-vis all the citizens rather than being invested in petty politics and in inciting against the people who didn’t vote for them. Many people in Israel today will be sorry to see this government fall.
THE CURRENT GOVERNMENT, WHICH BROUGHT TO THE TABLE PRESUMABLY IMPOSSIBLE PARTNERS, HAS MANAGED TO FUNCTION QUITE WELL.
American Jews should be praying for the survival of this government as well. Remember Netanyahu boasting six years ago about the Kotel agreement, which called for the construction of an egalitarian plaza at the Western Wall? Well, soon enough, under Ultra-Orthodox pressure, Netanyahu made yet another one of his many flip-flops, leaving non-Orthodox Jews and women as unwelcome guests at this site.
This government, on the contrary, doesn’t include Ultra-Orthodox ministers. Instead, as Minister of the Diaspora it has Dr. Nachman Shai, who has intimate knowledge of the needs and concerns of American Jews. If Sallai Meridor, former Chairman of the Jewish Agency, once lamented the ease by which Israeli governments had been making decisions which hurt Diaspora Jews, today they have an advocate sitting at the government table and raising the alarm when necessary.
Even more interesting is Minister of Religious Services, Matan Kahana, an Orthodox Jew, who has just released his plan to reform the conversion to Judaism in Israel, which has been traditionally under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate, now controlled by the Ultra-Orthodox. Kahana plans to delegate this authority to the city rabbis, some of whom are known to be more flexible. He argues that this would solve the problem of close to half a million Israelis, mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union, whose Jewishness is not recognized by the state-controlled rabbinate. Kahana’s reforms unleashed a litany of venom against him from religious radicals, including death threats, but being a former fighter pilot in the IAF, he is not the man who would falter under pressure.
I’m not suggesting here that Kahana’s current reform, which targets Israeli citizens only, might solve the problem of Reform and Conservative American Jews, whose conversions will still remain unrecognized by the Chief Rabbinate. But when was the last time you saw a move in the Israeli religious scene which was meant to make life for non-Orthodox Jews easier rather than more difficult? Given more time, Kahana, a proud representative of Zionist-Orthodoxy, who understands the importance of American Jews to Israel, might have more good news in his arsenal.
On Yom Haazmaut, in Israeli synagogues Ultra-Orthodox will again refrain from saying the Hallel blessing, because, they claim, the establishment of the state was not a miracle. In my humble opinion, the fact that Israelis could get their act together and form such a government is nothing but a miracle, and therefore we should all say the Hallel and pray for its survival, and American Jews should join in the prayers as well.
*spokesman of the Rabin and Peres governments from 1992-1996
**first published in: The Jewish Journal