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Opinion

The Israeli left must respect democracy

They should bring Israel together instead of tearing it down.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Foreign Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz attend a plenum session at the Knesset in Jerusalem on June 20, 2022. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Benjamin Sipzner
Benjamin Sipzner
Benjamin Sipzner is the director of international operations at Ad Kan and an adviser to the Israeli minister of Aliyah.

The Jewish state we once knew is starting to slip away. Ever since the last election, Israel’s political left and mainstream media establishment have acted to uproot Israel’s democracy, unity and reputation in the international community. This behavior must be identified, admonished and stopped.

In a speech four months ago in Tel Aviv, Ben Shapiro said, “America’s one major thing to learn from Israel is that a nation-state must have at its heart a nation. What it really means is America has to learn from Israel the necessity of having a common history, a common culture and a common destiny. It’s a truism of politics that when you’re too close to something, you see the complicated inner workings nobody likes to see. From the inside, Israel has to look like a roiling country of disagreements and conflicts, of dislike and antipathy and of unbridgeable gaps where nobody gets along. From the outside, which is where I live, Israel actually looks like a country more solid in its identity than nearly any country on planet Earth.”

Shapiro’s monologue on Israeli unity rings true to all Israelis. What led our young nation to grow so quickly was our national unity and collective commitment to making Israel a better country regardless of who was the prime minister. Under no circumstances should a Jew fight another Jew.

Israel’s now-former Prime Minister Yair Lapid has a history of incitement against the Israeli right and the religious community. On Nov. 10, 2022, at a graduation ceremony for IDF officers, he said that one of the challenges facing the army is “the call to use force without laws, without rules, without adhering to the model of a law-abiding army. These calls weaken Israeli society and the IDF.” This is a serving prime minister telling future IDF officers that the next government will push Israel and the army away from democracy. This is no way to accept defeat nine days after losing a democratic election.

On Dec. 1, Lapid wrote an open letter to Israel’s municipalities that said the parties set to form the next coalition government have “abandoned the education of our children and handed them over to the most extreme and darkest elements in Israeli society. I urge you not to cooperate with the unit for external programs and partnerships in the Ministry of Education as long as it is under the control of [MK Avi] Maoz.” Lapid called for municipalities to disobey the law because he was upset the new democratically-elected government might choose to promote values different from his own.

During a Knesset committee hearing on Dec. 20, outgoing Deputy Defense Minister Alon Shuster said of the Israeli electorate, “The people didn’t vote their conscience, the people don’t know how to vote their conscience.” That doesn’t seem very democratic.

Israel’s mainstream media has taken a similar approach. Barak Ravid, a journalist from the news site Walla, reported on several occasions that the Biden administration is very concerned about the new Israeli government and will not engage in any way with several of its ministers. The administration denied this and has said repeatedly that it looks forward to working with Israel’s new government and will focus on “policy and not personalities.”

In addition, the Israeli media speculated that the new far-right government ministers would destroy the Abraham Accords. Contrary to their expectations, two of the ministers in question—Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben Gvir—were invited to the UAE’s Independence Day celebration. Ambassadors from the UAE and other Arab states have publicly met with both men.

On the economic front, the media is also spreading rumors that the new government will cause a catastrophe. In an interview on Channel 13 with social media personality and high-tech entrepreneur Michael Isenberg, journalist Raviv Drucker practically begged Isenberg to admit that foreign high-tech companies would abandon Israel because of the new government. Isenberg replied that not one company had said anything about the new government to him.

A few days after the election, Bezalel Smotrich spoke in the Knesset at a memorial for former Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin. In light of the election results, he said, “In the last few days I hear people saying they won’t enlist in the army or participate in reserve duty anymore. I want to request you not to fall into the trap of the media and left-wing politicians. I say this as the representative for the religious Zionist community, which accepted Israeli democracy even when it caused us destruction. Not so long ago was the expulsion from Gush Katif. We accepted our fate, we protested and tried to make it not happen, but we didn’t rebel even for one second. We never had a thought to stop serving in the army, reserves or leave the country.”

This is the message we must remember. We must stand together unified for the only Jewish country even when things don’t go our way. The time has come for the “politically correct” to try being respectful of our beautiful country instead of tearing it down while shouting that this is the end of Israeli democracy.

Benjamin Sipzner is the director for international operations at Ad Kan. He was the Anglo coordinator for outreach and events for the Religious Zionist Party in Israel’s last two elections. Email him at: sipznerbenjamin@gmail.com.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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