Michael Boyden

Don’t Despair of Israel

Many are unhappy at the outcome of Israel’s recent elections, and appalled that Bibi should have formed a coalition government that includes the likes of Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich. I share their disgust and apprehension.

The Economist reports that “Among the new ministers congratulating each other on the government’s inauguration was a former member of an organisation denounced for advocating terrorism who becomes Israel’s new national-security minister; a finance minister who believes that following God’s commandments is the key to economic policy; and a justice minister who plans to eviscerate the power of Israel’s Supreme Court”.

However, as President Yitzhak Herzog rightly commented: “No one can have the privilege of behaving as though or saying that the country is done for.”

It is not that there is no cause for concern, but actions speak louder than words, and we have yet to see how the plans of some of the more extreme elements in Israel’s latest government coalition turn out in practice.

One of President Biden’s top aides is reportedly set to visit Israel amid fears of Netanyahu’s plans for the West Bank. We may have the most right-wing government in Israel’s history, but that does not necessarily mean that much is going to change.

In any event, past experience would suggest that Israelis will be going to the polls again in a couple of years’ time. Therefore, it would be a mistake to get over excited. Bibi’s latest coalition won’t last.

That is confirmed by the fact that this is Israel’s 37th government in just 74 years. Our electoral system does not make for a stable democracy. Therefore, what is here today will be gone tomorrow!

Don’t abandon Israel as though it were a sinking ship. Our response to the unsavory elements in the new government ought not to be to distance ourselves from the Jewish State in disgust, or look for somewhere else to live, but rather to strengthen the forces for change in our country, so as to ensure that our worst fears are not realized.

As the French novelist, Marcel Proust, put it: “Our worst fears, like our greatest hopes, are not beyond our control, and we can come in the end to triumph over the former and achieve the latter.”

About the Author
Made aliyah from the UK in 1985, am a former president of the Israel Council of Reform Rabbis and am currently rabbi of Kehilat Yonatan in Hod Hasharon, Israel.