The Lighthouse is happy to bring you the Jan 22 Israeli Knesset Elections Voter Guide

Unlike in the US, Israel as a parliamentary system offers voters a myriad of parties. The chart below will help any unsure voter. It may also surprise the experienced voter, as he may not end up where he expects.

Though done in good humor, it is a very important issue as a majority of Israeli voters vote for parties that do not really reflect their core values, but rather because they think themselves part of the matching “sector” of society. The chart follows a logical order of core beliefs in order of importance. Click on the chart to ZOOM IN.
Below the chart, there is more in-depth commentary on each party.

 

 

 

Useful Voter Guide for the Israel 2013 election - Make your way through the Israeli Parliamentary Maze. Many parties do not believe in what is often assumed they believe in.

 

Background to the Election

Only a few days away from the January 22 legislative elections in Israel. Being a country (unfortunately), with parliamentary supremacy, these elections are extremely important. What would in the US would be the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are in Israel all rolled into one. And unlike other parliamentary systems, there are not two houses of congress or the legislature, but only one, known as the Knesset.

So though Israel has the semblance of an Executive in the form of a Prime Minister, and a Judiciary (including the state’s powerful High Court), they are really just creatures of the Knesset. The Prime Minister, is namely, the first among equals and the most important member of the Knesset. He heads his own party, and the ruling coalition of parties that make up a majority in the Knesset. His power comes solely from this fact. The lack of checks and balances among independent government entities is further accentuated by the lack of a Constitution. Not having one, Israel’s all-powerful Knesset can do pretty much anything.

As an example, last year, the Knesset (trough a regulator) banned cellular phone contracts and any early termination fees that go along with them. Meaning that the lower priced plans that providers can offer in exchange for a time commitment (for example, the 12 month plan common all over the world) are now banned. In the US for example, would the Federal Government attempt to ban such private agreements between providers and consumers, the law’s constitutionality would be challenged in the courts.

The negative aspects of unrestrained state legislative power in Israel, are unfortunately not even counterbalanced by the positive aspects that a strong executive could have – especially one which must constantly strategically duel with a surrounding hostile Arab world. One can imagine that a government hampered by too many checks and balances, would not be nimble enough to move fast and strategically (which often means cunningly and secretly) in order to protect its vital national interests in the face of enemies (who do have that total flexibility in the form of dictatorial power). However, that potential positive does not exist in the Israeli system due to the nature of the parliamentary system. The executive (Prime Minister) tends to sit on his throne only by virtue of maintaining a ruling coalition of parties. In order to do so, he must “sell” important ministries to those parties, and constantly be in debt to them in order to maintain power.

Instead of selecting professional, qualified and able Ministers (such as Treasury, Defense, Foreign, etc) who report to him directly and serve at his pleasure as is the case in the United States, important legislators (ie politicians) of the coalition parties are given these “fiefdoms” as little more than bribes in exchange for their membership in the coalition. That is how for example, one ends up with the grotesque situation of Amir Peretz (if you don’t remember his name, don’t worry, Hassan Nasrallah does not either) as Minister of Defense (the equivalent of placing Barbara Boxer as Secretary of Defense (except that she would be more qualified due to her time on the Foreign Relations committee).

These politicians usually know little about the ministry they are heading and are political rivals to other ministers and the Prime Minister himself. Therefore, in Israel, it is  usually impossible for the Prime Minister to have a long term strategy. The government reacts tit for tat… the common “emergency cabinet meeting” convening every time there is an incident and the cabinet voting on what immediate step to take. These meetings are usually followed by leaks from the various rival ministers and accusations about what this or that member of the cabinet said. The heads of ministries do not report and work for the Prime Minister, but rather are his political enemies.

At best case, they become representatives of their ministry’s interests (more power and bigger budgets) to the government while at the same time not knowing how to run them well, and at worse simply use their position as a tool to try to dethrone the Prime Minister and take his job.

In countries where the government must simply decide on tax rates, educational budgets, sewage regulations etc.. (like much of Europe), then a Parliamentary system is not so devastating. Switzerland is not in a geopolitical conflict against anyone nor does it face daily existential threats. For Israel, the system is paralyzing, as it forces the state to have no coherent long term strategy to face and outmaneuver her enemies.

In great part because of this fact, Israel is famous for acting superbly when it no longer has a choice. When the Arab world has pushed Israel to the brink, when it has set out to destroy it military, and there are no longer any decisions for the government to make, the only decision left being to  let the IDF fight without restraint to save the nation, the results have been disastrous for the Arab world. When forced to fight, Israel has fought and won time and again. Her enemies have learned their lessons, if giving Israel no choice but victory forces it to obtain it, then all they must do is give Israel plenty of choices.

They now know to push, but not to the wall. As long as Israel has choices other than victory, it will take them. Just as all out war unites the country in defiance of the enemy, the absence of it polarizes it, divides it and paralyzes its dysfunctional government. Religious against secular, Zionist against non-Zionists, communists against free market supporters, the country is weakened by internal strife. Israel’s enemies now know to give Israel no peace and no rest, but to not push against the wall either… terrorism and international pressure do the work that their armies could not achieve.

These facts make elections, which are important in any country, critical in Israel. They go far beyond the state of the economy or environmental regulations in the state (which are themselves very important), but determine the country’s short and long term survival.  In this election it is popular for some parties to say that too much focus is given to the security situation (that Israelis are fed up of hearing about), and that they are focused on social issues instead.

Nothing can be more misleading. The number 1 social issue, the number 1 economic, environmental, judicial and religious issue IS the security issue. This does not mean that the number 2 and below issues should be ignored, far from it. It does however mean, that if the surrounding enemy forces overwhelm Israel, whatever decisions we implemented on the other fronts (social, economic etc) would be not only irrelevant but drastically overturned. The environment will not be protected under Palestinian, Syrian or Egyptian rule, and certainly social and justice issues will not be addressed by wholesale pillage, plunder and murder of Israel’s communities.

The security issue is foremost not because anyone should want it to be, it is simply a reality. Deciding to ignore it because we are fed up with it does not make it go away nor any less important. It can only make us fail to meet it. Just as peace requires two willing participants, violence requires only one.

Having said that it is important to realize many areas and issues are related of course, a strong economy is required for a strong security force. A united, moral, free and content society makes a nation extremely strong whereas an oppressed, depressed, hedonistic, divided one makes it extremely weak. There are logical orders and priorities to be considered however. With that said, a bit about each of the major parties running.

 

Scroll Up for a Voter Guide Chart and down for part descriptions.

Likud – Beiteinu

Kadima

Hatnua – The Movement

The Jewish Home

Otzma Le’Israel – Strengh to Israel

Yesh Atid – There is a Future

Meretz – Energy

Labor – Avodah

Shas

Am Shalem – Whole Nation

United Torah Judaism

 

The Likud Beitenu

under Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu stands to emerge as the largest single party after the election, and is also likely to head the next government. The Likud has traditionally been seen as the main party of the right wing in Israel, established by Menachem Begin (the Likud’s first Prime Minister). Until the early 2000′s the Likud flatly opposed the creation of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan river. It also opposed the Oslo Accords in the 90′s. However, in 1996, Netanyahu stated that he would honor the agreements since they had already been signed. He himself participated in further agreements with the PA. Ariel Sharon, who had been a cornerstone of the Likud party, moved to evict 10,000 Jews from Gush Katif in the debacle of the “Disengagement”. The main result of that has been Israel’s lost ability to stop weapons smuggling to Gaza (by the loss of the Philadelphia corridor), and proof to the residents of Gaza that Israel responds to violence and terror, by buckling. The endless hail of missile barrages has followed for years.

To its credit, the entire Likud could not be budged by Sharon into this defeatist move, and the Likud split. In effect, the defectors from the Likud that went along with Sharon formed Kadima. A party formed around the personality of Sharon and to no greater purpose than to allow him to complete the Disengagement. The Likes of Ehud Olmert went along with him, and Shaul Mofaz rejected Sharon’s personal invitation thinking that he himself could now rule what is left of the Likud. When that effort failed, he went back crawling to Kadima where he has finally achieved power.

Netanyahu has in several places and formats, supported the idea of a Palestinian state. The Likud has not yet officially changed its platform to indicate their true position, but it is clear from their statements that they do not oppose a negotiated Palestinian state as they once did. The Likud also states it advocates a free-market capitalist economy, but in practice more often advocates a mixed-economy. Though the Likud has liberalized many of the socialist policies of Israel’s economy, today’s Likud campaigning includes many populist, socialist or quasi-socialist mottoes such as calls to raise the minimum wage.

In short, the Likud has the tradition and aura of representing Israel’s right wing, both economically and on security issues. In practice, their positions are often indistinguishable to those of the other leftist parties such as Labor, Hatnua (the Movement) or Kadima.

It must be noted that this election, the Likud has merged with Avigdor Lieberman’s Israel Beitenu “Israel is our Home”. This at first seems like a strange calculation since almost undoubtedly Lieberman and Likud separately would command a significantly higher number of seats than together. This is mostly because many Russian immigrants, Jewish and non-Jewish, that are regular supporters of Lieberman may not vote for him on this united Likud list (where he is the junior not senior member). Furthermore, some traditional Likudniks may be turned off by his inclusion. One can only assume that Bibi preferred to have more seats completely under his control than a greater number of total seats (Likud + Beiteinu separately) under a lesser form of control as a coalition partner. Bibi often struggles with Lieberman’s threats of bolting the coalition.

However, overall it seems that Lieberman and Netanyahu work well together since they have worked together for many years (Bibi gave him his first political job). What Lieberman’s considerations in unifying may be, are more difficult to speculate about. It is likely that they have some sort of understanding about what must be done in the next government, which includes dealing with Gaza and Iran.

Kadima

is on this list because of the fact it is the current largest party in the Knesset. Other than that fact, it stands for little and has even less Raison d’être. As explained above, Kadima was formed when Ariel Sharon jolted from the Likud along with his loyalists in order to evacuate and demolish the Jewish settlements of Gush Katif, which his fellow Likudniks opposed. He was joined by other more moderate leftists who grew disillusioned with the increasingly leftist and dovish nature of the Labor party (such as Shimon Peres).  After Sharon’s slip into a coma, the party was headed by the unlikely Ehud Olmert.

Few lesser characters have graced the halls of power in Jerusalem. Ehud Olmert, now embroiled in a myriad of corruption and bribery cases, led one of Israel’s most pathetic governments. Together with Chief of Staff Halutz, President Katzav and Minister of Defense Amir Peretz they mostly robbed, took bribes, molested or raped women in their ministries and led Israel into ill-conceived and executed wars between them. Though the IDF fought valiantly, the reservists showed up when called and there was no less heroism in these wars than in past ones of Israel, Olmert was able to obtain political defeat from them.

The failed wars and corruption scandals stopped him from achieving his only stated political goal, which was a “Disengagement II” or the “Convergence”. This was another unilateral withdrawal from areas in the West Bank in the style of the failed disengagement from Gush Katif.  Basically, if you cannot even get a signature and a promise from the palestinians that in exchange for land they will honor peace (a poor bargain already), then you simply “unilaterally” give it to them anyways in exchange for nothing.

Since Kadima had been so centered around the personality of Ariel Sharon who is now out of the scene, and its only other Prime Minister was a miserable failure, thrown from politics by corruption charges, it has little to offer today. As I predicted early on on this blog, its status would be greatly reduced in any new election even though today it is the largest single party in the election. Headed by the serial flip-flopper Shaul Mofaz, who once swore he would never leave the Likud and attacked those that went over to Kadima, then came back crawling to Kadima only to swear that he would never join Netanyahu’s coalition only to do so weeks later and then quit again shortly thereafter. Mofaz’s campaign ads have been just as pathetic (with one  actually titled “Pathetic”) playing mostly on pity (and racist undertones) that just because others are smarter, better connected, and better looking is no reason to not vote for him.

Kadima’s record is a blot on the otherwise heroic record of the larger than life Ariel Sharon. Its record thereafter fall far below that, corruption, surrender, incompetence, recklessness. Ehud Olmert had large parts of Beirut flattened (with about 2,000 civilian casualties) by the air force while he left the infantry without air cover to fight in deadly Hezbollah ambushes. There was no logic to any of his desperate moves, and Israel’s standing in the world during Kadima’s tenure in power fell dramatically. Kadima today under Shaul Mofaz is nothing more than political opportunism, its attempt to appease everyone and be “centrist” simply shows the lack of true beliefs in the party, and there is no reason for anyone (who wishes Israel well) to vote for them. Tuesday would be a great day for for Kadima crawl BACK into oblivion from whence it came.

Hatnua – The Movement

Speaking about parties built around personalities and lacking in core principles and ideology (Kadima above), Hatnua takes the cake. The movement, is literally nothing more than Tzipi Livni’s refusal to accept her primary loss in Kadima to Shaul Mofaz. As easily as she bolted Likud for Kadima when political opportunity presented itself, she did the same thing again when the party she hoped to lead did not elect her leader.

Officially, the movement is a left-wing and dovish party, but has little really ideology other than whatever Livni can come up with. I doubt that Livnis’s parents, prominent Irgun members and nationalists, could be very happy with her latest moves.  Livni was one of the Disengagement’s greatest champions and seemed extremely proud of carrying it out. She was a member of the worthless Olmert government, and has now once again been joined by Amir Peretz, a communist union leader who unfortunately was given the position of Minister of Defense during the Second Lebanon War by Olmert (most likely in order to neutralize him as a political threat).

When questioned about having virtually no military experience for his position (in a country where military experience is commonplace), he arrogantly stated that a shepherd does not have to be a sheep in order  to lead other sheep (referring to the generals).  That is certainly true, the shepherd can often be a human, which in most cases (though not in his), makes him much more intelligent than the average sheep. However, it is difficult for an earthworm be a shepherd.

Livni has made one statement that I am aware of in agreement with the Lighthouse Keeper. She said that Arab attacks on the IDF are not terrorist attacks, like Arab attacks on civilians, which are. Israel tends to call them both terrorism. I agree with that statement, although most of her voters probably would not. In any event, Hatnua is a personal vehicle for her political ambitions and together with Amir Peretz, one can expect from them (if they were to be in power) large scale evictions of Jews, unilateral withdrawals, appeasement, higher taxes, more regulation, a stalled economy, union strikes, and laws forcing Orthodox Rabbis to marry non Jews, homosexuals etc.

The Jewish Home

is really just a renamed NRP (National Religious Party). It did begin as a union of the renamed NRP and the National Union (a coalition of other smaller right wing nationalist parties, secular and religious). However, due to unfortunate clashes and disagreements, those members have all left and the only members remaining on the unified list are those who were originally NRP members. However, there is one big change in this NRP/Jewish Home list this election; Naftali Bennet.

Naftali Bennet is a fast rising star who has attracted new life into the right wing which the media usually was able to portray and dismiss as fringe extremists. The Likud is very worried about many of its supporters voting for Bennet’s party who is actually more in line with what they believe in.

For his part, Bennet says that he believes the next Prime Minister will be Netanyahu, but the question is with what kind of a coalition. He warns Likudniks to vote for him if they want Bibi to rule a right wing coalition and not one dominated by Ehud Barak and the leftist parties.

Bennet, along with the beautiful Ayelet Shaked have been able to attract the social media generation and excite young voters with their fresh approach. They both worked under Netanyahu during his time in the opposition and started the non-parliamentary movement “My Israel”. It is difficult not to admire Naftali Bennet, he is easily described as a winner.

Born to American immigrants, he served in the country’s elite Sayeret Matkal and Maglan units in the army. He continues to serve in the reserves, currently as a Major. After the Army, he attained a Law Degree from Hebrew University and went into private business. He amassed a small fortune by co-founding and running a software security firm, Cyota.

After serving Netanyahu efficiently as Chief of Staff, Bennet served as a leader in the Yesha Council and in his social movement “My Israel”.

Unfortunately Bennet and Aryeh Eldad were not able to run on a unified platform, but Bennet has succeeded in bringing much of the “mainstream” to the right. Bennet opposes the creation of a palestinian state, and wishes to focus on a strong, unified healthy and Zionist Israel. His fresh ideas, many versions of successful state programs in the US (such as school vouchers) focus on pragmatic ways to improve the economy and life in Israel. Rather than simply promise things the government can “give” (which means higher taxes), he has actually approached the electorate on a more intelligent level and explained areas where his plans can make improvements without increasing budgets, or raising deficits and taxes. Bennet in his still short career has showed he knows how to get things done.

The Jewish Home believes in a strong Jewish State, with a strong IDF, liberty for all, including a free market economy. He opposes eviction of Jews for more “land for peace” deals, and wants to focus on things where there is wide consensus to get things done; both in security and the economy.

The Jewish Home has an emphasis on strengthening Zionist education, limiting the power of the Supreme court, opening up the media to more varied viewpoints, increasing benefits for those who do military service and reacting with strength against terrorism. While the party believes Israel is and should remain the Jewish state, it believes in protecting the rights of all minorities within.

Otzma Le’Israel- Strength to Israel

is very similar to Bennet’s Jewish Home and in fact held many discussions about running on a unified list. However, it may end up being beneficial to Bennet to be running separately since the media would have an easier time painting the whole list as extremist if it included Eldad and Ben Ari. In any case, Strength to Israel is headed by the respected physician Aryeh Eldad. Eldad is world renown as an expert on treating burn victims and wounded. He is a long serving medical officer in the IDF, currently a Brigadier General (res).

Eldad is a Zionist and a proud Jew but not what is commonly known as religious or orthodox. He believes that it is wiser to keep religion out of politics and likewise the government out of religion. He easily gets along with many other religious Zionists on the right who are often part of his coalitions. Eldad is undoubtedly the strongest candidate on the list when it comes to the Israeli-Arab conflict. He does not mince words, or use euphemisms so popular with politicians.

His main goal is to stop the government from giving away the State of Israel, any of it, to the enemy. He opposes the establishment of any sort of palestinian state within Israel’s borders. He has often advocated “political transfer” ie that the political rights of the palestinians in the west bank reside in Jordan (they were all Jordanian citizens in 1967 and many still are to this day).

Eldad wishes to void the Oslo accords and other agreements (whose clauses have by now been broken over and over by both sides) that gave sovereignty over Judea and Samaria to the terrorist organization PLO (and subsequently the PA). Besides his emphasis on security and the end of appeasement and surrender, Eldad wishes to end political corruption, encourage Jewish Aaliyah and business investment, and strengthen Jewish Education among other goals. Otzma believes that under a Zionist nationalist party, all sectors of Jews (and loyal non-Jewish citizens) can find plenty of common ground.

Labor

currently headed by Shelly Yachimovich is the more mainstream left-wing party alternative to the far left Meretz. Labor dominated Israeli politics for decades as it represented the labor-Zionist movement of the early Kibbutzim. However, it has moved consistently to the left, abandoning many early Zionist principles (that were often quite militant) and simply becoming more aligned with the international socialist and left wing movements. This turn left many former prominent labor politicians (most who had a hand in the establishment or early history of the state) looking for new homes in more center oriented parties. Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, Avigdor Kahalani and Amram Mitzna are just a few of the well known Labor parties that chose to leave it as it continue to veer left of the Israeli mainstream.

While most Kibbutzim no longer work like their socialist ideal, (their members more like wealthy landowners or shareholders in a profitable venture with a wealth of assets) and the top officer positions in the IDF increasingly going to religious Israelis instead of secular Kibbutzniks as in the past, labor has continued to lose relevance.

Today, the party often represents what is known in Israel as “leftists Light” (like “Light” beer). These are mostly comfortable well to-do young Ashkenazi secular Jews living in the areas north of Tel-Aviv. They often speak about poverty and economic fairness, but many Israelis doubt their sincerity since they tend to have no personal experience with it. Today, the Labor party has a shadow of the support it once commanded in Israel.

Its legacy in security since the Oslo accords and other dovish initiatives is dismal, and its economic policies not realistic in today’s competitive international marketplace. Many still blame it in having racist undertones against Mizrachi Jews.

Ironically, though Labor has little support today, it is important to note that their core beliefs are little different than the other major parties who are supposedly center parties as opposed to left.

Labor believes in the two state solution and in a quasi socialist economy. This is identical to the beliefs of Hatnua and Kadima, and not very different from the beliefs of the Likud and Yesh Atid. Israeli voters inadvertently vote for Labor-type parties in large numbers without intending to do so.  In order to find a party that does not believe in the two-state solution and believes in a free market economy, one must go as “far right” as Naftali Bennet’s Jewish Home. Most Israelis are not aware of this phenomena.

Meretz – Energy

Meretz is Israel’s far left party. It is a member of the Socialist International and the Party of European Socialists (though Labor also has observer status). Meretz believes in a very strong socialist, if not communist, economy and an immediate withdrawal to the pre-1967 borders. At least they mean what they say and mean what they say.

Yesh Atid – There is a Future

is also mostly built around a personality, and not an ideology, namely Yair Lapid. Lapid is a well known Isreli TV personality, and son of former Shinui (Change) leader Tomi Lapid. Many of its assumed ideologies come from those Yair’s father held at Shinui.

Yesh Atid differs little from the other “center” parties in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict. They also believe in a two-state solution. However, they may lie slightly to the right of Labor, Kadima and Hatnua since they have stated they would wish to keep some “major Jewish settlement blocks”. On the economic front, they possibly also lie slightly to the right of the same parties since they advocate a more free market economy. This would make them extremely similar to the Likud.

However, Yesh Atid still is widely thought of as a center-left party, and some of their stated platform on their agenda sounds rather populist as opposed to free market. The belief in their economic liberalism may come from the fact it was the belief held by Shinui and Lapid’ father, but may not necessarily be his own.

What really sets this party apart from some of the others is their focus on the Orthodox Jews. Lapid’s father was notoriously anti-haredi, and Yesh Atid has stated as a major goal the end of the Tal Law and the drafting of all (including Orthodox and Arabs) into the IDF. Along with these goals, may be the legislation of the the Rabbinate to accept non-orthodox conversions and marriages, including gay marriages and civil unions. I addressed the Tal Law issue in this earlier article.

 Shas

unfortunately has little good to be said of. Shas is an Orthodox Mizrachi or Sephardi party though the bulk of their voters are not strictly Orthodox but simply traditional Sephardi Jews. Leading Shas figures have continuously been embroiled in corruption and bribery scandals. They also have swayed all over the political map on any non-religious issue.

Shas has joined left and right coalitions with equal pleasure, as long as their budgetary demands (funds for their yeshivas, etc) are met. Their statements indicate that they are socialist and populists on economics, and moderately right wing on security issues, but they will tend to vote in any direction on any of those matters as long as their demands are met. If Shas can be said to have any real ideology, and not simply be in a hungry chase for power, it must be that the only truly important thing is to fund Torah study, since that in effect will cure everything else.

I would humbly suggest that if one was to study Torah, one would find the Torah not in agreement with that premise.

Due to these factors, many Sephardi voters who at first rushed to support Shas in the late 90′s and early 2000′s have been disillusioned and now gone back to support the Likud.

Am Shalem – Whole Nation

was founded by Haim Amsalem just months after being thrown out of Shas. Amsalem named the party Am Shalem as a play on his own name. The organization has caught on, and is well supported in Social network activity with a seemingly attractive agenda, to unite the secular and haredi communities.

The problem however is that dialogue and reaching out to and from one community to another is something that is done outside of law in a free country. For example, “My Israel” formed by Bennet had a very similar goal and so was an extra-parliamentary movement, not a political party. Several political parties also support bridging this divide but do not make it their legal focus.

Because that is basically Am Shalem’s only focus, it in fact entails a legislative agenda that is actually radically anti-religious. Beliefs such as these is what got Amsalem thrown out of Shas and what makes him rather dangerous. Ironically though he is Orthodox himself, his political beliefs align him with those of Shinui and Meretz, the most anti-religious parties in the state.

Without getting into too much detail, an example will be helpful in illustrating. Secular liberals, leftists and other critics of Israel are fond of saying that in Israel, unlike anywhere else in the world, non Jews cannot marry and that reform conversions are not recognized among other similar issues. This is extremely misleading…

The fact is that there are many non Jews in Israel, such as Muslims, Christians, Circassians, Druze and others. They all get married just fine. What you cannot do in Israel, just you like cannot in ANY part of the world, is force a traditional Orthodox Rabbi to perform a wedding he does not believe in. The Muslims and Christians in Israel are not married under a Chuppah by an Orthodox Rabbi, just like they aren’t in America or anywhere else.

The issue is that in other countries, that is hardly an issue, since those who are not Jewish don’t often want an Orthodox Rabbi to marry them, if ever. But in Israel, since it is largely a Jewish county, and people are used to going to their friends’ weddings and seeing a bearded black hat bearing Rabbi and a Chupah, they desire the same thing for their own wedding. If they are not Jewish, they find that a problem as they would in any other place on earth. It would be very ironic that Orthodox Rabbis would be forced by law to conduct marriages that they do not believe in (mixed marriages for example, or gay marriages etc) ONLY in Israel, the Jewish state, whereas they are not forced to do any such thing in any other country I am aware of.

In the same manner, Israel does not force Muslim or Christian clerics to recognize or perform any rite that they do not believe in, why should it do that to Jews?  For millenia, traditional Judaism has maintained that a Jew is one born of a Jewish mother, and only conversions (which are discouraged)  done according to appropriate Halacha are valid. There are reform Jews today that disagree with this, and they are free to disagree.  They exist in Israel like they do elsewhere, but nowhere in the world are Orthodox Rabbis forced to bend their beliefs to those of the new reformers. There is no reason why that should be the case in Israel.

The Rabbinate and Orthodox Rabbis should be left alone by the government to believe as they always have, just like the government leaves the clerics of other faiths alone. The agenda of Amsalem is dangerous and is namely to use the power of the state to force the religious establishment to do and accept things that they do not believe in. It would also encourage thousands to undergo improper conversions and have them be recognized by the Rabbinate by force of law.  These converts would be put in an unfair and unprecedented position of having legal right to force any Jew to accept their conversion, but not truly being accepted in their hearts. A problem that would endure with their descendants.

People would cringe at the thought of allowing the Orthodox Rabbis in Israel to ban working, driving or watching TV on Shabbat. Likewise, if not more so, it is grotesque to use law to force the Jews who have held on to our beliefs most zealously through millenia to break them. Parties such as Yesh Atid, Meretz, Shinui and ironically Am Shalem threaten just that, a dangerous use of state power against religion. One can be sure that unity and “Whole Nation”ness is not what will result.

United Torah Judaism

is an Orthdox Ashkenazi union of political parties that acts as a voting block. It has been composed of various and shifting alliances between Hasidic and non-Hasidic factions.

The UTJ, somewhat like Shas, tends to be very flexible in supporting different economic, national and security policies as long as their narrow demands are met. They wish to prevent certain anti-haredi laws to be enacted and ensure funding for Torah study.

In some ways, the Ashkenazi counterpart to Shas, they are somewhat different  Their voters tend to be haredis themselves, unlike Shas. Less religious or secular Ashkenazi voters do not vote for UTJ unlike traditional, moderately observant or secular Sephardis that in many cases have supported Shas.

Perhaps due to this fact, the UTJ has varied less in its policies, mostly leaning to a center-right national policy, not advocating socialist or populist economic policies and sticking to getting support for their Yeshivas and Torah study. They have also not been chronically embroiled in corruption scandals like their Shas counterparts. But Like Shas, the UTJ as a party lacks the same element that would enable a Zionist Jew to vote for them, religious or not.

A party that does not concern itself with everything that happens in a state, does not a very good party make. However, the UTJ succeeds in stopping radical leftist anti-Jewish legislation from getting through various coalition governments. They also however, increase funding and thus dependence of the haredi population on government money which is very unhealthy.

 

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