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Pray for Peace in Israel

04/11/2019 10:11:03 AM

Apr11

Rabbi Ron Segal

As the dust is still settling following Tuesday’s elections in Israel, deciding what exactly to share in this week’s column is admittedly difficult. As of this writing, the full implications of the election are still unclear, though it is predicted that Benjamin Netanyahu will retain his post as Prime Minister. 

In Israel’s parliamentary democracy, citizens vote for parties, not for individuals. Parties which receive a minimum threshold of votes are awarded seats in the 120 member Knesset based upon the percentage of the vote their party received; the party with the largest number of seats determines the Prime Minister. In this election, the Likud party of Netanyahu and the new Blue and White party each earned 35 seats, but Netanyahu will likely remain Prime Minister, as he has the best chance of assembling a majority coalition capable of ruling the country. Israeli President Reuven Rivlin will announce this in the near future.

It is impossible not to appreciate Mr. Netanyahu’s political savvy as well as his ability to win a 5th term as Prime Minister, a historical achievement in Israel. Still, in light of the overall election results, I feel compelled to also share some genuine concerns as to what could emerge from this next Israeli government in light of recent statements and actions.

First, as noted in our Facebook post earlier this week, Mr. Netanyahu recently vowed to extend sovereignty (annex) to every Jewish settlement in the West Bank. Should he follow through with this pledge, it will likely be the death knell for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and also compromise Israel’s ability to preserve its democratic principles. To demonstrate broad and collective support for a two-state solution, the primary institutions of the Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist Movements have sent a letter to President Trump encouraging his administration to maintain its backing of a two-state solution in any Middle East peace plan to be proposed in the days ahead. 

A second concern unquestionably results from the increase in the number of Knesset members who are part of ultra-Orthodox parties and the fact that the Prime Minister has indicated an intention to include them in his governing coalition. The consequence of doing so will likely result in legislative decisions that are anathema to progressive and pluralistic Jewish values in Israel, such as the battle for civil marriage, transportation on Shabbat, and potentially even the issue of who is counted as a Jew.

I encourage any who share these or other concerns to find ways of supporting organizations that are working to promote Reform and progressive Jewish values in Israel, entities such as the Israel Religious Action Center, Association of Reform Zionists of America (ARZA), New Israel Fund, Women of the Wall, and others working to achieve change in society. And of course, continue to travel to Israel, and when you do, include a visit to a Reform synagogue (now over 50 throughout the country) and to other organizations which are living your values. Let us continue to work and pray for the peace of Israel and all who dwell there.

Sat, September 21 2019 21 Elul 5779