Adam Gross

Parshat Naso – Torah is telling us what Israel now needs to do

As I have observed many times in writing this blog, the weekly Torah commentary provides guidance and insight in addressing our contemporary challenges, as it says ‘It is your life and the length of your days’.

This week in Parshat Naso we read how the tribal leaders bring as their offering to the newly erected Mishkan (‘tabernacle’) ‘six covered wagons and twelve oxen – a wagon each for two leaders and an ox for each’ (Numbers 7:3).

Why, asks the great biblical commentator from Renaissance Italy, Ovadia Sforno, did the leaders not contribute one wagon each?

His answer: ‘As a sign of brotherhood between them so they will be worthy of the service to which they had been called, as it says, ‘He [Hashem] became King of Yeshurun [i.e. Israel] when the leaders were united” (Deuteronomy 33:5)

In my previous blogposts, I have argued that a national unity government is the best, and quite possibly only way out of Israel’s challenging predicament.

I have argued that Israeli politics faces a choice between four options, and that three of those options take Israel further down the path of ungovernability, chaos and division.

But one of those options is the path of healing, consensus, strength and re-emergence.

Israel’s major problem is its internal divisions. I firmly believe, as Rabbi Sacks Z”L repeatedly said, “the only people who can defeat the Jewish people are the Jewish people.”

One of the few things that still unites the Jewish people today is the belief that Jewish unity is good and beneficial, Jewish division is bad and harmful.

But Israel is addicted to division. It cannot stop itself. However much Israelis may say “’beyachad nenatzeach” (“together to victory”), they can’t stop themselves from also muttering under their breaths about “leftist traitors” or the “fascist dictator.”

The only good choice in Israeli politics is a choice that heals the sources of division, and does not deepen them further. This is where choices 1-3 fall short. A long way short.

Choice one – if this coalition chooses to struggle on, which I think they will, and I think they will manage, it will massively exacerbate division. The opposition will scale up protests and we will be back to where we were on October 6th, G-d forbid. No lessons learned. This is a path, G-d forbid, of death and destruction.

Choice two – Even if the coalition heeds the opposition’s call and Israel goes to elections, who could disagree that this would be the most bitter and divisive election campaign in Israel’s history (and there’s quite some competition)? All the trauma of October 7th and its aftermath, all the blame games, will be channeled into a negative, inciteful campaign, G-d forbid, where more hatred is directed at each other than at the genocidal enemies waiting at the gate. Israel’s degraded political class has shown it cannot campaign with the dignity, respect and responsibility that would be fitting for the Jewish people. We do not need elections like these.

Choice three – Many are praying the opposition can succeed in peeling off some members of the coalition to form a new coalition with representation from both the right and left. On the surface, this seems like a unifying path. But it only takes a moment of reflection to realize it is no less divisive than choices one and two, and in some senses may be more so. What are the major fault-lines in the country? Religious and secular, Ashkenazi and Mizrachi, center and periphery. And who are those defectors the opposition hopes to peel off? Secular Ashkenazim from Israel’s center. This was one way in which Netanyahu successfully delegitimized, and finally provoked the collapse of the Lapid-Bennett-Gantz coalition that spanned Israel’s historical “left” and “right.” Such a coalition would only reinforce the sense of exclusion and division felt among religious, traditional and Mizrachi communities in the periphery. It would create another deep sense of betrayal, G-d forbid, much like the Gaza withdrawal in 2005. Its impact would be felt for a long time thereafter and could reshape Israeli politics into a vicious ethnic contest in which everyone loses, G-d forbid. It would likely incubate renewed calls, G-d forbid, when things settle down, for the most intense version of judicial reform with an open focus on settling scores. Again, G-d forbid, it is the way back to October 6th.

There is one more choice – choice four. Choice four is a national unity government. For a government to be truly about national unity, it needs to include, represent and build consensus across Israel’s fault-lines – Mizrachim with Ashkenazim, religious with secular, periphery with center. To that should be added, Arab with Jew.

To achieve what Israel and the Jewish people need of it, a national unity government must be more than a sticking plaster. It must provide the political cover for a period of deep listening to existing grievances and for the emergence of genuinely creative thinking that go beyond existing zero-sum questions to address the wide range of difficult challenges that Israel faces today: the war, the Haredi draft, Jewish-Arab relations within Israel, settlement, the peace process, a more inclusive development trajectory for the periphery, and the reset of Israel’s international relations.

In my previous blogposts, I have identified who is the party and suggested who is the leader that can achieve a national unity government. It needs to happen now. The leaders must be united.

This is the message I take from reading Parshat Naso this week.

About the Author
Adam Gross is a strategist that specialises in solving complex problems in the international arena. Adam made aliyah with his family in 2019 to live in northern Israel.
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