Context matter – What the Israeli elections should be about

Truth be told Benjamin Netanyahu has scored some major victories as Israeli premier. Netanyahu with his friend Donald Trump succeeded against all odds to torpedo the nuclear deal between the western powers and Iran which would have secured a new nuclear power.

Netanyahu succeeded breaking the EU unity on the Palestinian issue by engaging more frequently than before with the V4 countries (Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia) + Romania and Latvia. But then again there is nothing called a free lunch. New relations has put in question old relations.

Israel has always rested on two legs. Building support inside the country as well as promoting its case outside the country, using and treating the Jewish Diaspora as an integral, unifying part of the Jewish State. Under Benjamin Netanyahu’s premier the relations between the Jewish world outside of Israel has slowly deterred. I want to point out that the blame is on equal footing between Netanyahu, his coalition partners, the rabbinate and the Diaspora.

In 1950, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion’s assertion that Israel was now the de-facto center of the Jewish world provoked an irate Jacob Blaustein, president of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and at the time perhaps the most important lay leader of American Judaism, to counter forcefully that “there can be no single spokesman for world Jewry no matter who that spokesman might try to be.”

Today, the orientation of many American Jews toward Israel is one neither of instinctive loyalty nor of pride but of indifference, embarrassment, or hostility. To this phenomenon, the findings of the 2013 Pew Center study, A Portrait of Jewish Americans—the survey research cited by all serious observers—bear sober witness.
According to the study of American Jewry, nearly 60% of American Jews intermarry. Based on the Pew data, the Jewish People Policy Institute published a report in June that noted that not only are 60% of American Jews who get married marrying non-Jews, only half of American Jews are getting married at all. And among those who are getting married, less than a third are raising their children as Jewish in some way.

In 2013, 32% of American Jews under 30 said that they were not Jews by religion. Today the proportion of Jews under 30 who say they have no relation to the Jewish faith has ballooned to 47%.

Whereas in 2013, 35% of American Jews identified as Reform, today, a mere four years later, only 28% identify as Reform. The situation among Conservatives is even worse. In 2013, 18% of American Jews identified as Conservatives. Today, only 14% do. Among Jews under 30 the situation is even starker. Only 20% of American Jews under 30 identify as Reform. Only 8% identify as Conservative.

Just the other day, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael–Jewish National Fund chairman Daniel Atar said:

“Sixty-five percent of Jews in the Diaspora are choosing to disconnect themselves from the Jewish people.”

Obviously Benjamin Netanyahu and his government´s is not solemnly to blame for the above mentioned situation. That Jews stop being Jews or is indifferent to religion or Israel’s fate is a question that foremost the individual and surrounding context is responsible for. But Likud governments and right wing governments does not seem to grasp the situation in the Diaspora. They don´t seem to understand the agony that Jews are experiencing as a minority because they themselves lives as a majority.

Israel is changing and the Diaspora is changing as well, which is why a strategy is needed.

To understand the urgency of this issue you don´t need to look very far. For starter, Europe and the US is filled with identity politics, cosmopolitan thoughts while Israel is growing more nationalistic.

Second, the conversation processes to Judaism in the Diaspora has been a continued thorn in Israeli Diaspora relations. There have been unclear and arbitrary requirements concerning this process as well as is the case with people coming to Israel to live.

Third, shall Israel continue to be a Jewish state? And if the answer is affirmative, is the Law of Return not being considered more of a problem than a solution in its current form?

Yes Israel has had a minister of the Diaspora, Sharansky and more lately Bennett. Neither has succeeded bridging the gap between the two groups. Israel’s main challenge today is not the Palestinians nor the security. It is the split among ourselves.

About the Author
In 2016 I released the Swedish book Who Says What? Voices in favor and against a Two-State Solution. The aim for the book was to be an objective and sensible voice by presenting balanced texts from respectable actors who provide different perspectives on the situation and reflect on alternative solutions. I recently released my second book Israeli Settlements: Land Politics beyond the Geneva Convention. The aim with that book is to go deeper to understand the rationale behind Israeli land policies. I am also a diplomatic Corp for the World Jewish Congress.
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