As I went to sleep last evening, news was already reporting the six point spread between Likud and the Zionist Union, and that given the math, PM Netanyahu will be able to form a new government with all right-wing parties without needing to create a national unity government.
Yes – I am deeply disappointed, but I’m not down.
I am printing a letter below in its entirety from Jeremy Ben-Ami, the President of J Street, because my perspective matches his – though he and I debate personally whether or not there is a higher power. I believe there is, and he has his doubts.
After Jeremy’s letter, I will share an email I sent to him this morning appropriate for this moment, our J Street national convention beginning this motzei Shabbat in Washington, D.C., and our Pesach season that is fast approaching.
Here is Jeremy’s letter sent this morning to 200,000 supporters of J Street in the United States and Israel:
Benjamin Netanyahu’s victory is a deep disappointment to all who hoped that Israel might choose a new direction for the country in yesterday’s election.
The Prime Minister’s renunciation of the two-state solution and resort to a campaign grounded in fear and tinged with racism successfully moved 150,000 votes from other right-wing parties into the Likud column in the campaign’s final days. But we fear that the cost to Israel in the long-run will be steep in terms of support here in the United States and internationally.
The Prime Minister’s outrageous statements in the campaign’s final days may have pushed him from 19 percent in the polls before the election to 23 percent on election night and cemented his position as the leader of Israel’s right wing, but this was not a broad mandate in support of the direction in which the Prime Minister is leading. Seventy-two percent of Israelis on the eve of the election felt the country is headed in the wrong direction, and only one-third of Israel’s voters supported the hard-right represented by Likud, Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman, a number roughly comparable to last election. Even in the next Knesset, the blocs of the center-left and of the right wing will continue to be evenly balanced.
Without question, we respect Israel’s democracy and the outcome of the election. We celebrate the vibrancy of debate and dissent in Israel over essential matters that was on full display during the campaign. And – contrary to the Prime Minister’s panicked attack on the participation of Arab citizens in the election – we view their increased participation in this year’s election as a positive sign about the strength of Israeli democracy.
None of that can change our core belief, however, that the policies that the Prime Minister articulated in order to win – outright rejection of the two-state solution and territorial compromise – should and will be rejected by the international community, including the United States. Sadly, the results of this election will only deepen Israel’s growing isolation.
The manner in which the Prime Minister secured his victory – shredding the broad bipartisanship that underpins American political support for Israel and preying on fear and racism at home – also demonstrated that he willingly put his own political interests before his concern for Israel’s relationship with the United States and his commitment to Israel’s democratic character.
Moving forward, J Street will be unwavering in making the case that Israel’s security and survival as the democratic homeland of the Jewish people require a change in course, recognizing that the need for change is ultimately a matter for the citizens of Israel to debate in the years ahead.
Here, in the United States, J Street, however, has a clear role to play. We will stand up strongly and proudly in American political and Jewish communal debates for an end to occupation, for a two-state solution and for an Israel that is committed to its core democratic principles and Jewish values.
We will speak out on behalf of the majority of American supporters of Israel – Jewish and not – who support a two-state solution and oppose moves to limit the rights of any Israeli citizens or to deny the collective right of the Palestinian people to self-determination in a state of their own.
Faced with a return to power of a Prime Minister who has publicly demonstrated that he does not share those beliefs, we will advocate strongly that the American Jewish community must maintain and even more actively promote its commitment to the core principles and policies which have been bedrocks of the US-Israel relationship for decades.
We’re counting on your support as we continue that work.
– Jeremy Ben-Ami
My email to Jeremy:
Many express doubts about there being a higher power in light of this election – understandable, and I know many American Jews have altogether given up on there being a higher power.
Martin Buber would have said not that God doesn’t exist, but that God is “in eclipse” and has permitted the darker forces to run amok. Good people doing good work is evidence of God’s presence, I believe, and there is plenty of that around.
Remember the Midrash of Moses and the Israelites at the sea. While Moses prayed, Nachshon ben Aminidav jumped in the water and began to swim, essentially taking history into his own hands. The rabbis said that God was watching, and the combination of Moses’ prayer and Nachshon’s activism persuaded God to split the sea.
All metaphor, of course, but don’t give up on the existence of a higher force, just that too many people are disconnected from it and we need more to transcend fear, which is a dark force that keeps us from higher vision, and carry on the good fight.
Ometz Lev (strength of heart),
In conclusion, Meirav Michaeli (Member of the K’nesset from the Zionist Union) said it well as quoted in the NY Times today taken from her tweeter feed:
“As difficult as it is, it’s just another round. We have to raise our heads, recover and start preparing for the next round. This is our country. This is our society. We are here to work for both.”
We in America that love Israel need to support those Israelis (Jewish and Arab citizens alike) with whom we share a common vision.