Tisha B'av thoughts on the conflict in Israel
It has inspired two related thoughts.
First is that while keeping the hearts of men from dividing themselves into irreconcilable tribes is the ultimate solution, it will never be fast, no matter how the arc of the universe *eventually* bends toward justice. In the meantime, we need institutions to mediate those conflicts and temper their consequences.
This is where Israel falls short and an instructive parallel to America can be considered. Many people bemoan the inability of American political institutions to simply get things done, and the fact that there are so many constraints and veto points. Israel is a cautionary example of the opposite. There, as we're seeing, it's pretty easy for the government to get things done! You can do it with 61 seats in the Knesset, and you can almost certainly do so with no fear of veto from any other institution. And thus Israel is reaping the whirlwind.
One can imagine Trump winning in 2024 and the Republicans taking Congress. Bad things would certainly result. But I suspect there are still enough veto points in the American system that even in that dreadful circumstance we wouldn't be facing Israel's potentially dire situation. The fact that our system is so blocked means that good things don't happen *and* bad things don't typically happen.
Now against that you could point to the British parliamentary system with a similar lack of veto points. But in Great Britain, unlike Israel, there have been centuries of developed norms and values that effectively limit how far a majority party can go in imposing its will. In Israel, the democracy is too new and too fragile for those types of norms to have fully been embedded.
The second point, I'm afraid, is that we'll see the limits of protest. I've been impressed by the scale and commitment of those standing up to the government. But I wonder if it will matter. The advantage of the government is that they simply have enough Knesset seats (plus the support of a large part of the Jewish Israeli population). They can simply outwait the protestors. Because unless the protest movement is willing to truly raise the stakes they do not have the power to change the government's direction. We've seen this most unfortunately in Iran where the people rose up against the oppression of women in a most thrilling fashion and continued the protests week after week after week . . . until it petered out and the government returned to oppression as usual.
This is a grim picture of Israel, but at least it does make me appreciate our crappy system of government more.
Brilliant piece — yasher koach.
Don’t give up hope.
This was excellent, thank you for writing it.
I have followed the developments with interest from the USA and also in conversation with friends and colleagues in Israel. I have questions:
How can the Supreme Court decide matters before it not on legal grounds . . . but whether the law is “reasonable”? Of course the question becomes, reasonable to whom?
And how is it reasonable that the Supreme Court and its supporters be exclusively the ones who select new members of the court, thus perpetuating their own political philosophy and rewarding their own adherents, keeping the court almost exclusively Ashkenazi and secular . . . nothing like the actual national makeup and character?
And if the “far right” won the election and has a solid majority by all the normal election rules actually in place . . . how is it democratic for the opposition to act as if the election had not been valid? Just because they do not like the outcome? I believe we have been lectured in the USA that “elections have consequences.” But apparently only if the right (actually "left") side wins.
Just beautiful...in its wrongheadedness. :)
You worry too much. The great self-reckoning of the Jewish people (of late between the Jews and the Israelis as you put it) is a process that began at Sinai, and continues to this day. There were never any shortcuts and there are none today. That particular point--and it is the most salient--is what you have excellently summarized in your discussion of Kamtsa and Bar-Kamtsa.