David-Seth Kirshner
Author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness

History Repeating Itself

Since Benjamin Netanyahu first took the reigns of the premiership in 1996, and each of the five other times he has secured victory and a coalition in the Knesset, he has been singularly focused against those who seek to harm Israel. Most notably Iran, and curtailing its nuclear ambitions but equally worrisome and closer to home, Hizbollah amassing weapons on the northern border and Hamas gaining traction and engaging in asymmetric warfare have been the alarm siren of Bibi and his followers.

“He will keep us safe,” his loyal followers have chanted at his rallies. Around Shabbat tables people will admit, they feel safest with his leadership. Kitschy commercials were even aired about Bibi looking after the country like a baby sitter – calling him the Bibi-sitter – so parents can live worry free.

In his most recent quest for continuing leadership Bibi did NOT make his campaign’s primary goal to deepen and broaden the Abraham Accords. He did not present a plan to conclude the decades long conflict with the Palestinian people. He didn’t place at the top of his agenda any major programs for affordable housing and lowering inflation. Rather, he has led with a judicial overhaul that will create a forcefield around him and any transgressions he might be indicted for, along with those fringe elements of his coalition.

Since the Israeli government is parliamentary, Bibi needed a majority to form a coalition. Not unlike what Speaker McCarthy had to do in “selling his soul” to the extremists for votes, Bibi sought out the support of convicted felons and extreme right-wing ideologues and those who sympathize with likes of Jewish terrorists, Meir Kahane and Baruch Goldstein to help him gain power. Bibi did just that. As the saying goes, he laid down with dogs and now the country is full of fleas.

As a result of this strategy and the majority’s fixation with bulldozing forward, Bibi will ironically do what the enemies he swore to protect against could only have dreamt about. He is pulling apart the fabric of Zionism. He is whittling away the strings that tether Diaspora and Israel relations. Bibi’s actions are calling into question whether Israel will be democratic OR Jewish and forsaking the notion that it is and can continue to be both. He is thumbing his nose at Diaspora Jews and making them AND Israeli Jews choose loyalties. He is tilling the soil for a full fledged civil war in Israel.

This is illustrated in the hypocritical stunt of sending his finance minister, the unapologetic and blustery Betzalel Smotrich, one of those very right-wing fringe characters who recently incited violence against Palestinians, to the United States to ask for $1.3B in Israel Bonds purchases from North American supporters, to benefit Israel. But the funds he is soliciting come predominantly from the very Jews Smotrich continuously disavows, Reform and Conservative Jewry of the Diaspora.

Iran is laughing. Hizbollah is howling and Hamas is befuddled. Our sworn enemies haven’t even fueled the rockets and are getting the result without placing a finger on the deadly launch button.

In Bibi’s pursuit of self protection, the Sayeret Matkal (special elite forces) IDF soldier who was trained to fall on a grenade to save his platoon is doing the opposite. He is throwing the explosive on the population to save himself. Bibi will be nothing and his legacy meaningless if the dream and miracle of the Jewish state self-destructs.

My grandmother was one of the wisest people I ever met. She used to say, “what we do to ourselves, our worst enemies would not do to us.” How true! Jewish historians know too well about the cause of Temple’s destruction in Jerusalem. It was not because of the evil plots of our adversaries, rather because we hated each other so much and sought to protect only ourselves, our self-interests and promote our own narrative, that we lost the entire enterprise. We can feel the impact of its demise and mourn its loss, still today.

History is indeed repeating itself. What a damn shame!

About the Author
David-Seth Kirshner is the senior rabbi of Temple Emanu-El, a Conservative synagogue in Closter, New Jersey. He is the past President of the NY Board of Rabbis and the NJ Board of Rabbis and is a Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Hartman Institute and serves on the Executive Committee of the JFNA. Rabbi Kirshner was appointed to the New Jersey/Israel Commission by Governors Christie and Murphy. Rabbi Kirshner is a National Council member of AIPAC and an adjunct faculty member at the Academy for Jewish Religion, (AJR). He is the author of Streams of Shattered Consciousness, featured in The NY Times Book Review (Feb '24) and has over 11,000 copies in circulation in its first three months since publication. He has spoken on his book and topics connected to Judaism and Zionism across the world.
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