— by Rabbi Lance Sussman
The official results of the Israeli elections of 2015 are in and Bibi Netanyahu is surely back for a fourth term. The People of Israel have spoken, but what will the world hear?
Several aspects of this election’s vote struck as particularly important. The dream of the founding Labor Zionists view of Israel as a modern, open, secular society is over for now. Israel seems permanently destined to be controlled by the descendants of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the father of right wing Revisionist Zionism, uneasily combined with the religious Orthodox sector both Zionist and non-Zionist. Ultra-nationalism and religiosity is yet again Israel’s path.
Bibi won but there may be huge losses ahead for Israel. In the twilight of the campaign, Bibi openly embraced the One State Solution. In reality that means, Israel has now officially rejected the 1947 UN Partition Plan and, secondarily, the right of the PA to represent an autonomous Palestinian people.
Bibi went to Washington to discuss Iran but the election at home turned on the question of Jerusalem and who governs it. The Palestinian Authority now has no reason to negotiate with Israel. Either it will turn again to international pressure or worse, violence at home. For sure, the Boycott, Divest and Sanction movement will feel a yet greater urgency to pursue its terrible goals.
Israel’s standing in Europe seemed at its low point in the wake of the Gaza War of 2014. It is likely to go even lower now. Moreover, for the first time since Truman recognized Israel in 1948, Israel and America are officially out of alignment on the One State vs. Two State option. American-Israeli relations will thus continue to tumble downward and increasingly become fodder for the U.S. 2016 Presidential campaign and the internal U.S. debate over Iran. Be prepared for compensatory Israeli overtures to India and China for international support.
Besides their international political consequences, the settlements will continue to divert Israeli national resources away from its domestic economy. The income gap will continue to grow. The young will continue to be squeezed out of the housing market. Bibi might also feel compelled to start taking steps to consolidate all of Jerusalem into Israel, thereby triggering widespread Muslim protests, or worse.
What is to be done? First, Israel is strong and self-reliant. Israel will be okay from a security point of view. It knows how to take care of itself even if it has to go it alone. National self-reliance is the essence of all forms of Zionism. Second, American Jews should continue to support Israel, especially those aspects of Israel most important to us. So, among other things, I plan to pump up my support of Reform Judaism in Israel at this time.
I still believe in the Zionist dream of a Jewish national home safe, at peace with itself. And that my expression of Jewishness will be part of that picture with all of its bright and dark spots in today’s Israel. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Visit Israel and never, ever give up hope.
Lance Sussman is the senior rabbi at the Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel.