Israel: Trading one demographic time-bomb for another? Part 3

On 13 June 2021, with a 60–59 vote and 1 abstention, the Knesset voted to approve the 36th government of Israel led by Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid. It took eight parties to form the coalition including the Ra’am party and some 28 ministers to run the government.

With the projected increase in the size of the haredi population it is reasonable to expect that their political clout will increase accordingly when Likud, their political ally will be returned to power to replace the current government which manages to govern with the support of Ra’am and the United List through expensive financial and a number of politically dangerous concessions such as those made in connection with the Bedouin in the Negev.

Certainly with 420 rabbis of the Rabbinical Congress for Peace calling for the toppling of the current government with less than a year in power, on the grounds that it “engenders the very existence of the Jewish people”, its prospects of continuing to govern with the active and passive support of the Arab parties must be quite troubling for the Jewish population of Israel and of the Diaspora. I note that the reference is not to the State of Israel but to the “Jewish people”.

The return to the haredi to government with increase political force can do nothing but increase the potency of the demographic bomb they are; especially when one hears MK Yitzhak Pindrus state that his dream is to blow up the Supreme Court. While he is only one MK to utter such a shocking thought, the question remains as to how many other haredi MKs have the same or similar dreams but are politically astute enough not to share them with the public. On the other hand, the Supreme Court’s legal shenanigans usurping the lawful authority and power of the Knesset and of the government does upset not only both sides in the Knesset but also a lot of Israelis.

The Haredi and eligibility to vote, run for elections to the Knesset sit in the Knesset and in the Cabinet                                                                                                                             As a Canadian lawyer reading the applicable provisions of the Basic Laws, I submit that the haredi are not eligible to do any of these four things.

 Starting point                                                                                                                          As Professor Yuridia Z. Stern pointed out, the “haredi reject the Zionist aspiration for normalcy, which they consider to be a form of forbidden Hellenization. They view the Jewish state as having no intrinsic value and, only support the government because it permits the physical survival of the Jews and serves as the financial patron that dispenses largesse to the Torah world. Their vision [and wish] is to continue the life of Diaspora in the Holy Land.”

The right to vote                                                                                                                           Section 5 of the Basic Law: The Knesset, 1958, as amended, reads:                                     “Every Israeli citizen of or over the age of eighteen years shall have the right to vote in elections to the Knesset, unless a court has deprived him of that right by virtue of any Law.”

The haredi while praying for the arrival of the Messiah reject the existence and legitimacy of a pre-Messiah State of Israel and by implication the notion of their citizenship in the country.  Surely the phrase “any law” includes the Hebraic laws by which the haredi govern their lives. In the premises, theoretically, a court of law could prohibit them to vote.

Running for a seat in the Knesset                                                                                             The haredi are surely barred from running for the Knesset .This is self-evident in the light of section 7A, paragraph 1 of the same law (amendments 9, 35 and 39) which reads:                    7A. A candidates list shall not participate in elections to the Knesset, and a person shall not be a candidate for election to the Knesset, if the goals or actions of the list or the actions of the person, expressly or by implication, include one of the following if the objects or actions of the list or actions of the person, expressly or by implication include one of the following:   1. Negation of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state           2.….                                                                                                                                              3…

Sitting in the Knesset                                                                                                                Even, if a haredi is successful in getting elected, the foregoing legal obstacles are  compounded   by the provisions of sections 15 and 16 of the  Basic Law. They provide           15 (a)A Knesset member shall make a declaration of allegiance as follows:                     pledge myself to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and faithfully to discharge my mandate in the Knesset;                                                                                                                            (b) Arrangements for the declarations shall be set by law. (Amendment 23) 23)                    16A. If the speaker of the Knesset has called upon its members to make their declarations of allegiance and a member has not done so, that member shall not enjoy the rights of membership as long as he has not made the declaration.

Short of perjuring themselves, I do not see how the haredi can make the foregoing declaration.

Membership in the Cabinet                                                                                                       Basic Law: The Government, 1968, as amended, requires the MKs selected to sit in the Cabinet to comply with the following provisions of section 16                                               16. As soon as, or as soon as possible after the Knesset has expressed confidence in the Government… each … the …Minister [s] shall make the following declaration of allegiance:  “I (name) pledge myself as a member of the Government to bear allegiance to the State of Israel and to its laws, to carry out faithfully my functions as a member of the Government and to comply with the decisions of the Knesset.”

In conclusion                                                                                                                                 Surely, one need not be a Jewish religious scholar to know that in order to vote, run for the Knesset and join the Cabinet; the haredi must commit perjury; a fundamental breach of the Torah. Rabbi Jack Abramovitz of the Orthodox Union “warns us in the Torah to distance ourselves from every false matter”. (Exodus 23:7).”

The failure of the successive governments or of the Israeli Electoral Commission, as the case may be, to revoke the first three rights, and of the successive Prime Ministers to deny the haredi a seat at the Cabinet table is surely inconsistent with two of the fundamental guiding principles of democracy; namely: the rule of law and the government’s duty to act in good faith.

At all events, if the successive governments recognised the right of the haredi  not to serve in the IDF on the grounds that such service would force them to commit a fundamental breach of their Judaism, it is wholly nonsensical  to hold that they are nevertheless entitled to vote, run for the Knesset and sit at the Cabinet table, notwithstanding the fact that they do not meet the criteria for voting, running for election, sitting in the Knesset let alone sit in the cabinet.

Undoubtedly, any scheme contrary to the wishes of the haredi, will inevitable result in ongoing violent resistance, nay, a civil war which Israel hardly needs.                                      In the premises, the Israeli society is saddled with this problem which is likely to be compounded with the projected growth of the haredi  population.

In this regard, while it is true that due to their high fertility rate; theoretically the percentage of the haredi rate of participation in the electoral process is lower than that of the rest of the Jewish population eligible to vote. However, empirically the difference, if any, may not be substantial.

For example, according to a survey conducted  in August  2019 by the Maagar Mohot Institute on behalf of Hayom-i24, the outcome of the then forthcoming election will be determined in the light of the fact that only 61%  (with a margin of error +or- 4%) of Israelis plan to vote. In that instance, I would have hypothesised that the the comparable rate of voting for the Haredi would likely be higher than that of the rest of the Jewish population.                                                                                                                                                            Regrettably, being unable to secure the figure after  of the election I am not aware whether or not the election results substantiated the results of the survey and my hypothesis.

Hence, while it is very democratic and in keeping with   the formal description of Israel as a democracy, to grant the haredi the rights identified above, it is also highly undemocratic to grant such rights when these rights are granted through  the fundamental breaches of the Basic Laws of Israel.

In the next and last Part 4, I propose to examine further  the adverse impact of the haredi on Israel’s  democratic texture and its financial well-being .

About the Author
Doğan Akman immigrated to Canada with his family. In Canada, he taught university in sociology-criminology and social welfare policy and published articles in criminology journals After a stint as a Judge of the Provincial Court (criminal and family divisions) of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, he joined the Federal Department of Justice as a Crown prosecutor, and then moved over to the to civil litigation branch . Since his retirement he has published articles in Sephardic Horizons and e-Sefarad and in an anthology edited by Rifat Bali titled "This is My New Homeland" published in Istanbul.
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