A Plea for Unity in Israel
by Matt Adler
To my Israeli brothers and sisters:
I am an American Jew. I regularly attend synagogue. I speak Hebrew. I’ve been to Israel several times. I care deeply about the future of not only my country, but also that of the State of Israel. And that’s why I’m asking centrist and left-wing Israelis to unite.
The past few years have given me reason to worry. I’ve looked on with shock at the weakening of the Israeli-American relationship. I’ve seen repeated attempts by Prime Minister Netanyahu to try to sow conflict with the Obama Administration over such topics as Iran and settlements. To my dismay, Prime Minister Netanyahu even appeared to actively place his bet on a Romney Administration, speaking out in ways favorable to him during an American election between two solidly pro-Israel candidates. Such actions unnecessarily alienate American supporters of Israel and cause discord and confusion at a time when we cannot afford either.
Yet it’s not just the Israeli-American relationship I’m worried about; it’s Israel itself. During the Netanyahu years, we’ve seen an explosive growth in settlements, shocking income inequality, a deterioration and privatization of the social safety net, and a lack of progress on making peace with the Palestinians. Surely not all the fault for these failures falls on the shoulders of one man, but it is clear that the current government, as led by Bibi, is leading Israeli down a path of Haredification, poverty, and maybe even war.
So what am I, as an American Jew, to do in such a time of deep anxiety and fear for the existence of a strong Israel and the Israeli-American bond? While I can’t cast a ballot in Israel – and I deeply respect the fact that only Israelis should decide their country’s fate – I do have a message I want to share with all those Israelis as concerned about the items above as I am: Unite!
Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen Prime Minister Netanyahu and his friend Avigdor Lieberman (Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs and Deputy Prime Minister of Israel) join forces to unite their two parties, pushing the Likud party even farther to the right. There is now an opportunity for the center and the left to put aside our differences and join together around what unites us. We hope for an Israel with equality for Arabs, gays, women, and immigrants. We hope for an Israel at peace with her neighbors. We hope for an Israel that refuses to kowtow to religious extremism no matter what the source. We want an Israel that reflects the values of humanitarianism and compassion embodied in our Torah.
To that end, whether Israel elects Tzipi Livni, Shelly Yachimovich, Shimon Peres, or someone else, now is the time to come together, to unite parties, and to stand behind a leadership that can make Israel once again a light unto the nations with justice for all its citizens.
Drishat Shalom, peaceful and brotherly greetings,
Matt Adler is a member of Temple Micah in Washington, D.C.. He has been an active member of the URJ, including as a leader in NFTY and Kesher, since he was a child.