Regev Responds

How to safeguard religious freedom and equality in Israel

Nearing the point of explosion!

"The storm is rising," I wrote recently. Now, I can definitely say that the situation is nearing the point of explosion! Also, this time, it is clear that the religion-state clash is an integral part of the approaching explosion.

Minister Lieberman, source: WikipediaMinister Lieberman, source: Wikipedia

This morning, Absorption Minister Sofa Landver (Yisrael Beiteinu) lashed out at the ultra-Orthodox parties who are demanding the immediate passage of laws to exempt yeshiva students from military service (see more below). She declared that "the Haredi parties are trying to extort the State in every manner and at every opportunity!" The Minister followed on Defense Minister Lieberman's (Head of Yisrael Beiteinu) statement, "The Draft Law is a Draft-dodging Law. United Torah Judaism's demand is nothing short of extortion by threats. Yisrael Beiteinu will not capitulate."

Clearly, like eagles sensing their prey below, the political groupings are repositioning themselves, sensing the coming elections. The Likud leadership (including an emergency meeting that Netanyahu held with the Haredi leadership last night), conveyed to the Haredi politicians that they are overreaching. Their demands might not only result with early elections, but also with serious political losses to their allies and a dramatic increase in the Yesh Atid party's attraction to the public. Having just extorted the passage of the Markets Bill focusing on Shabbat commerce, the Haredi political leadership (particularly the Aguda sector, under pressure by their rabbis) have demanded the commencement of legislation this week aimed at overriding the Supreme Court rulings regarding military service by yeshiva students (for further info see HERE and HERE), lest they will prevent the passage of the national budget.

Now that elections are looming, they have all woken up.

However dismissive Israel's political leadership has been of the public's rejection of the Haredi parties' demands, now that elections are looming, they have all woken up to realize the imminent and dire repercussions of buckling to their extortion. There yawns a wide abyss between the Haredi pretentious claims that military exemption for their yeshiva students is critical to Israel's security because it's actually only their Torah study that safeguards Israel, and the 70% of the Jewish public that rejects this, as recently measured again in the Peace Index.

The lessons to be drawn are clear:

  1. As cynical as politicians are, when they sense that the public is outraged and is going to exact a price for their surrender to extortion, they are capable of regaining portions of their backbones.
  2. A key element in safeguarding religious freedom and equality in Israel should be ongoing outreach, mobilization, and consciousness raising of the public.

As we celebrate Purim, the holiday of masquerading, we urge you to endorse our vision and help us tear apart the cynical masks Israel's political powers that be wear every day.

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