(January 1, 2023 / JNS) Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s persistence and determination have finally paid off after five tries in three years, but Israel, the Jewish people and democracy are the real winners.
It was a long and arduous road getting to this point, full of bumps and potholes, an obstacle course. Even after being sworn in, Netanyahu had to suffer outgoing Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s refusal to shake his hand. Lapid’s lack of respect and civility is another example of the extreme polarization in Israel and many parts of the democratic world. The left constantly criticizes the right for being undemocratic, yet when the right wins a democratic election, the left fails to congratulate the winner.
In particular, the new Israeli government is a historic victory for religious Zionism. Religious Zionists were the first to make aliyah to the Land of Israel, when five hundred students of the Vilna Gaon immigrated there between 1808-1812. A large wave of mostly religious Jews came to Israel in 1881 after pogroms and persecution in Ukraine.
Although religious Zionists led the way, secular Zionists brought Israel into existence in 1948. Now, as Israel approaches its 75th birthday, religious Zionists have finally attained a position in the government that is well-deserved and long overdue. Ultimately, the future of Israel rests with those who observe the Torah and its commandments.
However, Israel’s history has been checkered with mistakes and missed opportunities. After the 1967 Six-Day War, Israel annexed Jerusalem but could have annexed all of Judea and Samaria. It failed to do so, even though it would have been easier then than now. Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria also could have been achieved during the Trump presidency. This should have happened but did not. I know it was very close to happening. To this day, I am not sure why it did not take place. It must be one of the top priorities of the new government.
After 1967, Defense Minister Moshe Dayan made the mistake of handing control over the Temple Mount to the Islamic waqf. Even the Arabs were surprised by this move. It has been a continuing source of problems for Israel ever since. The late Rabbi Shlomo Goren was prepared to hold services there from the moment it was captured. I personally asked Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to build a synagogue on the Temple Mount. He did not say “no” to me. Jews should be allowed to pray there.
In 1988, Sharon moved into an apartment in the so-called “Muslim Quarter.” This area should rightfully be called the “Old Jewish Quarter,” since the majority of people in the Quarter were Jews until 1936. Although Ateret Cohanim has done an amazing job at rebuilding the Jewishness of this part of the Old City over the past 40 years, the Jewish world could be doing much more. I have worked on this project since 1985 and am extremely proud of it. It has been a great privilege.
The Oslo Accords signed in 1993 caused the deaths of thousands. The Accords were one of Israel’s greatest mistakes. Unfortunately, they continue to be a thorn in Israel’s side. Those working for a two-state solution are only perpetuating this mistake. If pursued, the Oslo process would lead to a terror state similar to Gaza. Indeed, Oslo led to the expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif in 2005, which gave Hamas free rein to carry out its deadly attacks on Israel. Until Hamas is neutralized, Israel will not be able to achieve the peace it deserves. I fully expect the new government to once and for all put an end to Hamas and other terror groups like Islamic Jihad. Obviously, taking care of business with Iran would be a major first step.
The new government of Israel has its work cut out for it. It is a daunting task but definitely achievable. I wish them tremendous success.
Dr. Joseph Frager is a lifelong activist and physician. He is chairman of Israel advocacy for the Rabbinical Alliance of America, chairman of the executive committee of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim and executive vice president of the Israel Heritage Foundation.
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