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Peter John Beyfus

A New Babylonian Captivity

Likud leader, Binyamim Netanyahu, would be wise to heed the warnings of history. In forming a coalition with acknowledged extremist elements he runs the real risk of alienating many Israeli and Diaspora Jews. The price of another term in power may prove too high, even for a political acrobat and survivor like Netanyahu.

Israel has reached a critical point in its short history and rather than put in jeopardy its good relations with Western democracies it should see how dangerous the present proposed lurch to the far Right is for its future well being. Whether Netanyahu and his supporters like it or not, Diaspora Jewry, particularly influential Jews in the USA, cannot be taken for granted. It is their efforts in defending Israel against often unfair attacks by the media and anti-Zionist politicians, of all persuasions, who have consistently supported the State.

If the program of religious, judicial and societal reforms are carried out then the future relationship between Israel and Diaspora Jewry will come under increasing strain. This is good news for Israel’s enemies, bad news for the continuing cohesion of the Jewish People. Rather than giving free reign to the ultra-Orthodox, including exemption from military service, Netanyahu should reflect what the majority of Israelis want and that is active participation in building a strong democratic, pluralist country. How much of the horse-trading between Likud and the religious parties will be realised in a coalition government is debatable. He has already flagged his antipathy to changing The Law of Return, by putting off any decision in the short term. To change the Law by excluding those people who make Aliyah on the basis of having one Jewish grandparent would be to destroy one of the founding moral principles of the Zionist State.

In advocating unspecified restrictions on LGBT rights he would be running counter to what many people regard as legitimately affording equality to a minority. Perhaps it is worth contrasting the behaviour of this group with those of the ultra-religious. Who perpetrates violence? Which elements in Israeli society are more prone to intolerance, aggression against those they dislike, and who expects the State to provide for them and their families but give nothing in return except extremist religious rhetoric?

So where should Netanyahu’s focus be? Assuming the ridiculous PR system that Israel unwisely adopted allows him to form a survivable  government, he should continue the dialogue with Arab nations, culminating in a deal with Saudi Arabia; he should use Israel’s influence with Arab friends to enter into serious negotiations with the Palestinians; this is the best chance we have to broker a lasting peace by sidelining Hamas, Hezbollah and Iranian sponsored terrorism; change PR to a more realistic way of conducting elections; shift the spotlight from the religious lobby to what is truly representative of the majority of Israelis; and, finally, stop antagonizing Diaspora Jewry by recognizing the symbiotic relationship that exists between Israel and the Diaspora: equal partners.

About the Author
Peter John Beyfus is an historian, published author, poet, and a person who prides himself on “thinking outside the box”. I have written many essays on Jewish themes, published in various journals, including ‘Wessex Jewish News’ and ‘Westminster Quarterly’, the magazine of Westminster Synagogue, London.
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