Much of today’s political debate in Israel essentially surrounds the question of identity. Who are we, Jews or Israelis, and what does any of that mean? Those more connected to their Jewish identities are likely to view our conflicts and struggles in a deep historical context. They view all that is happening to now as a small part of a long line of Jewish history. Those with an “Israeli” identity think this story began in 1948. This identity crisis has a profound effect on our political culture.
There are two kinds of Left wing in Israel. The “Tel Aviv Left Wing” and the “Moshav Left Wing.” For this article I will be focusing on the Moshav Left. The Moshav Left is made up of very good people. They are strong Israeli patriots who view service to the State as a primary value. They serve in all of Israel’s combat units and continue to make up a large chunk of the elite soldiers and officer corps today. They are willing to sacrifice everything they have for the State of Israel without question. They are on the Left because of identity. They have a strong Israel identity, but a weak Jewish one.
Their Israeli identity causes them to see our conflict as something that started in 1948. They still cling to the dream of being a nation like all others, and believe that making peace with the Arabs will accomplish this goal. For them, this is a conflict with Israelis and Palestinians as opposed to a war between Jews and the Islamic world. The Moshav Left views Israel’s diplomatic isolation as a result of Israeli policy, and not as Anti-Semitism that has existed from time immemorial. They find themselves confused about why the world is against us, despite the world knowing how humane the Israeli army really is. The Moshav Leftists know they are good people, and they desperately want the world to see this. They are becoming worn down by the conflict, because they’re tired of what they see. They see the loss of many young men and women who were killed in the prime of their lives. They see broken families, suffering, and immeasurable sacrifice with no end in sight. They speak of peace, but deep down they know it is nowhere on the horizon. Deep down they are wondering if Zionism was worth it. Confused as they are, instead of blaming their enemies they blame their own brothers; their brothers on the Right Wing.
The Right wing in Israel is made up of several groups, but I will focus on the Dati Leumi (the Religious-Zionists). When people think of the Right wing, they’re thinking of the Dati Leumi, because they are heart and soul of the Right wing; and in many ways, even the country. This is not shown in elections or polls, but is very clear In Israel’s character.
The Dati Leumi has a strong Jewish identity. They view this conflict as natural, because it has existed forever. The world blames all its problems on the Jews, and tries to kill us. This always existed, and continues today. Their religious fervor leads them to believe we can never be a normal nation; it’s even written in the Torah. The Torah speaks about Esau’s hate and Ishmael’s wild nature. It makes perfect sense to them that the Europeans hate us, and even more sense that the Arabs want to kill us.
The people of Israel see the Dati Leumi and their unyielding dedication to the country. They see a motivated population who has many children per family. The Dati Leumi view the army as a holy duty, and that is why you see them making up a disproportionate amount of the combat soldiers and officers. Israel saw these people settle the land, and today they’re even making a sizeable presence in Israel’s coveted Hi-Tech industry. The Left doesn’t realize it, but they are waiting for the Dati Leumi to lead the country, but the Dati Leumi are too scared to do it.
The Dati Leumi’s strong Jewish identity allows them to be the ideal citizen, but their insecure Israeli identity doesn’t allow them to lead the State. They are still looking for acceptance from the Secular. They want the approval of the Left, the “real Israelis”. Their quest for mainstream legitimacy holds them back politically. Their political campaign videos focus on every secular supporter they have. Who cares if you have millions of supporters if they’re only religious? By seeking this legitimacy they remain followers when they could be leaders.
This has to change. Now. Israel is in desperate need of leadership, and the Dati Leumi are the only ones who can provide it. They are the only ones with a clear vision of who we are, and what we are up against. A leader must arise who does what is best for the country regardless of world opinion. This brings me back to the Moshav Left. If we lead, they will follow. We must stop seeking their approval, and force them to seek ours. We must provide them with a real vision instead of the fear of being labeled extreme or, heaven-forbid, religious. Our religious beliefs and Jewish identities are our greatest contribution to the Israeli people. They are nothing to be ashamed of. We must step up to the role of leadership. We have tough trying times ahead, and only a real leader can get us through it. It’s time to step up.