The Otzma deal: A moral/political analysis

Kahanism is a vile distortion of Torah into an ideology that celebrates power for its own sake and denies the Torah’s valuation of humanity. Torah scholars of stature and varying political persuasions in America and Israel have articulated this powerfully and well.  I share completely their position that Otzma and Kahanism are utterly unacceptable ethically and halakhically. I say this as someone who strongly supports the right of Jews to live securely in Yehudah and Shomron, and does not see Jewish settlement there as an obstacle to peace.

The soul of the State of Israel is not at stake in the deal between HaBayit HaYehudi and Otzma. It is actually great news that Otzma could not reach the Knesset on its own. What is at stake is whether a Religious Zionist party has a place in electoral politics.

A religious party has no purpose if its sole issue is national security.  The primary task of a separate religious party on the political right must be to prevent the right from falling into the evils exemplified by Kahanism. For a religious party to instead be the cause of Otzma entering Parliament is absurd. Nothing it could gain in return would justify its existence. If the reelection of the Prime Minister overrides all else, HaBayit Hayehudi should disband and urge its former constituents to give its votes to Likud or another sure coalition member.

A definition of Institutional corruption is the belief that the institution’s own survival and success are more important than the ideals it stands for.

Alliances with evil are sometimes politically necessary and justified to prevent greater evils. Every democratic electorate includes morally reprehensible people, and their votes are inescapably factored into every political calculus. This is as true in Israel as in the United States. It would be irresponsible to do otherwise.

But a healthy democracy requires citizens and politicians to believe that the state can survive even If their side loses. Believers that an electoral loss will lead to apocalypse inevitably cheat or sell their souls to remain in power.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s actions on behalf of Otzma suggest that he has lost faith in Israeli democracy. Even those of us who give him high marks for his years of service as head of state must acknowledge the grave danger here.

About the Author
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper is Dean of the Center for Modern Torah Leadership, which brings rigorous traditional scholarship, interdisciplinary openness, and a deeply humanist understanding of halakhah to every aspect of Jewish and public life. CMTL develops present and future Modern Orthodox leaders, male and female, through unique programs of intense Talmud Torah that catalyze intellectual creativity and educational innovation. Rabbi Klapper is a popular lecturer whose work is published and cited in both university and yeshiva contexts.
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