(February 21, 2019 / JNS)
I hear the criticism about the merger between the far-right Otzma Yehudit and the mainstream religious Zionist parties—once again, they are bringing in Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir.
What would have happened if in 1992 the radical right had joined forces with the National Religious Party, for example? Then, too, we would have heard the outcry from the left, but at least we would have been spared the bloody adventurism of the Oslo Accords. It doesn’t look like Begin and Shamir would have objected.
This is what is so absurd: For years, the ones who determined the legitimacy of the right were its opponents on the left. It was not allowed to even appear to be making moves to join the extreme right; otherwise, the entire right-wing camp would be labeled as espousing Kahanism and fascism, and the rest of the curses that Haaretz editor Amos Shocken published daily about the right. And the right accepted it as part of its feelings of inferiority and because of its consciousness of the enslaved, which recognized the moral superiority of the left. We never stopped to ask why the left was allowed to do what it forbade the right from doing.
If the far-right holds opinions that the left thinks must be avoided at all cost, it is worth looking into whom the left plans to bring into an opposition phalanx. The Arab parties are working to eradicate Israel’s Jewish character and turn it into a state of all its citizens. They support boycotts of Israel and the transfer of Jews out of our ancestral lands, and back the policies of Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas, who among other things pays good money to compensate terrorists who murder Jews and increases the payments based on how horrific the killings are. Is it moral to use their votes to form a bloc that will put the Zionist left in power?
If a technical ad hoc merger with the radical right is immoral, while a merger with the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish left is fine, that demonstrates that it’s not morality that concerns those who oppose it, but rather righteousness born out of the political needs to prevent the right from forming a government.
Unlike the left—and that includes the leftist media, whose freedom of opinion should be taken with a grain of salt (note how they close academia to right-wing lecturers, as well as most media outlets)—I was the only one at this paper who took a stand against the sanctions on Knesset member Hanin Zoabi following the Mavi Marmara affairs and for her right to criticize us from any soapbox. I argued that Israeli democracy was strong enough to include her, too. I also opposed disqualifying the Balad Party from the Knesset. I thought that shutting people up would lead to violence rather than strengthen democracy. It’s even more important to oppose the total rejection of the extreme right.
Anyone who remains unmoved by the artificial fuss can find points on which he and the far-right agree, as well as things that should be opposed with all our might. We aren’t afraid of disagreements. And a word for the religious Zionists who oppose the merger: in the third century C.E., Rabbi Yochanan taught that the “the humility of Rabbi Zecharia ben Avkolas destroyed our Temple and burned our sanctuary and exiled us from our country.” Absolute purity is not good for politics. Sometimes a technical merger leads to cooperation and moderation. In any case, it is of course legitimate for any party—right or left—to maximize the possibilities they have of forming a government coalition by putting together a broad bloc. For years, it was the left. Now maybe if the right makes the same move, it will reinvigorate the politics of two main blocs that we were familiar with until 25 years ago.
We can hope that this step will go beyond its political meaning and possibly signal a new direction of independent thought among the right—one that does not depend on its opponents. The left does not have a monopoly on morality, and we have never charged it with ensuring that Israeli politics remains kosher. Especially when it does not hold itself to the same moral standards.
Now only Eli Yishai’s Yachad Party still needs to be brought into the right-wing bloc. That would right a certain historic wrong by religious Zionism when it comes to how it treats Mizrahi Jews. I am convinced that Habayit Hayehudi leader Rabbi Rafi Peretz and deputy leader Eli Ben-Dahan understand that. It can be done.
Dror Eydar has been appointed Israeli ambassador to Italy.