Israel Is Democracy in Action

Regarding the New Israel Fund article “NIF Seeks Liberal Path for Israel, Supporters” (June 5), I am more concerned with the criticism of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s gaffes than with Cover 6_12the gaffes themselves. His admittedly inelegant remark about the Arab turnout may have simply been an attempt to rally his supporters. In a similar vein, my rabbi urged his congregants to vote Mercaz (Conservative slate) in the World Zionist Congress elections because the Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) parties were going to be back in the Israeli coalition.

It is also important to note that many Arabs citizens of Israel, including some members of the Knesset, oppose the Jewish character of the state and that there were groups, with foreign funding, that were actively involved in increasing the participation of anti-Likud voters. The bottom line is that there was no attempt to prevent Arabs from voting, and the United Arab List ended up being the third-largest party elected.

Many people are acting as if Netanyahu’s “no Palestinian state on my watch” was the death knell of the “peace process.” Frankly, the peace process has been dead for some time, and it isn’t the Israelis who killed it. Leftist Ehud Barak and centrist Ehud Olmert both proposed the establishment of a Palestinian state in all of Gaza and 97 percent of the West Bank, with the possibility of shared governance in Jerusalem. Yasser Arafat (2001) and Mahmoud Abbas (2008) rejected these proposals, neither making any attempt to enter into negotiations.

Likewise, Netanyahu’s outline (2009) of a demilitarized Palestine abiding peaceably beside the nation-state of the Jews was met by Abbas’ bragging that he had not made any compromises and never would. With missiles being fired from Gaza, anti-Jewish incitement spewing from mosques, schoolrooms and media outlets, and the high praise being given to Palestinians who have killed Jews, no Israeli prime minister should be willing to accept Palestinian statehood in the immediate future.

The parliamentary system of government allows small parties to wield a good deal of power, and in Israel this has allowed the Haredim to dominate religious affairs. It is not a situation that is going to change overnight. Yet a growing number of Haredi youths are serving in the Israel Defense Forces (or doing national service) and entering the workforce. There are now 70 Masorti (Conservative) congregations in Israel, and even Dati Le’umi (National Religious) communities are pushing back against Haredi excesses.

With good will on all sides, Israel will remain a Jewish and democratic state.

— Toby F. Block, Atlanta

 

FIDF Editorial Off-Target

I found the editorial “Terror Attempt” (May 29, 2015) on the Friends of Israel Defense Forces gala disruption to be way off the mark.

First of all, it completely let the staff of the FIDF off the hook. Certainly, when we know anti-Israel activists do this sort of thing, it shouldn’t be too much to ask of the staff that a simple Google search is also done for attendees of an event. The first result for Jim Chambers is his Twitter account, which makes it clear he’s not interested in supporting Israel and would only attend such an event to disrupt.

More important, the title of the editorial is extremely problematic. Calling a nonviolent act a “terror attempt” cheapens actual terrorism. Not only is it offensive to the memories of Gilad, Eyal and Naftali (z’’l), whose brutal kidnapping and murder sparked last year’s operation, but cheapening terms in this manner causes people to ignore real terrorism. Although I’m not one who thinks Israel can solve its image problems solely with better hasbara, it is certainly a necessary component.

— Jacob Alperin-Sheriff, Atlanta