Michael Boyden

The Game Is Over

Bibi’s call for national unity as Israel goes to war against Hamas would have made sense if he had not done everything in his power over the years to divide our nation.

No one believes him anymore. Even when he talks about establishing a War Cabinet composed of former Chiefs of Staff, it is still unclear as to whether he is prepared to pay the political price for doing so.

His entire strategy was based upon the belief that if he gave Gaza’s civilian population money, food, electricity, water and employment, they would not attack us.

And so it was that the majority of Israel’s armed forces were on the West Bank defending the settlers. Even the IDF’s Gaza Division was in Huwara when Hamas terrorists broke though the security fence on our southern border.

Not only was Israel’s security strategy based upon a misconception, but the strengthening of Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority reflected a failed strategy that Netanyahu had promoted.

Even as Israel goes to war, it is not the government that is taking care of Israel’s citizens on the home front, but civilian, voluntary enterprises and networks, many of which were built up during months of protest against the judicial reforms that Bibi had spearheaded.

The very reserve air force pilots, who were called traitors for refusing to continue to volunteer given the government’s legislative intentions, are the people who are now leading our military offensive against the Hamas in Gaza.

Just as Golda Meir was guilty of failing to recognize the military preparations by the Arab nations that led to the Yom Kippur war, 50 years later Prime Minister Netanyahu didn’t understand the threat that Hamas posed to Israel’s civilian population.

In the public inquiry that will inevitably follow this war, Bibi will no doubt try to shift the blame upon the IDF and its Chief of Staff, Herzi Halevi, who has only held office since January.

Halevi is a person of integrity with battle experience second to none. However, an army can only act on the basis of directions given by the government of the day. Bibi is responsible.

Just as Golda Meir had to go, Bibi will also have to go, and take with him a government dependent upon charedim who do not serve in the army, and religious zealots whose provocative behaviour only served to incite our enemies.

In that sense, the war that is just beginning represents a crossroads in Israel’s history. Divisive government legislation has no place in Israel. Judicial reform must be arrived at through consensus.

Politicians who seek to divide our nation and sow hatred have no place in our society, which is dependent upon co-operation and mutual respect for its very survival.

The charedim can no longer stand idly by as Israelis risk their lives in defence of our country. However much they believe in God, they know as well as we do that, without the IDF, there would be no Israel. There can no longer be any free lunches.

Israel’s very future is dependent upon a recognition that what was is not what can be in the future.

Otherwise, those who can will leave the Jewish State and the country, chas v’shalom, will be left to the charedim and the messianic zealots, who like those of two thousand years ago, will bring about its destruction.

When the dust of war settles, Bibi will need to go, and our country will need to do some soul searching in terms of the manner in which it operates and its preparedness to allow religious extremists to determine its future.

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.
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