Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Quite independently of any advantages one might wish to impute to the withdrawal from Azza, the decision-making process that lead to it was an unmitigated catastrophe that has exposed severe cracks in Israeli democracy.

In representative democracies, the Executive, once elected, is empowered to make decisions with far-reaching consequences without consulting the electorate. What checks are there on the abuse of such enormous power?

Obviously, the first line of defense is the legislature. Thus, for example, in the U.S. the President can sign a treaty only with the "advice and consent" of the Senate. Also, except in cases of emergency, the President can declare war only after specific statutory authorization by Congress. In Israel's parliamentary system, the Knesset's check on the Prime Minister is more general: a majority of the Knesset can simply terminate the Prime Minister's tenure by a vote of "no confidence". (Since the last election, such a vote must be constructive, that is, it must include a replacement candidate.)

The legislature, in turn, is typically responsive to public sentiment, if not as a matter of statute or principle, simply because legislators generally wish to get re-elected. Public sentiment is, in turn, informed by and expressed through public discourse in all its forms: academic debates, public advocacy, popular media, mass demonstrations, etc.

In addition to all this, heads of state need to work together with administrative and advisory bodies, which -- although subordinate -- can make life difficult for those who push them around and who hold significant sway over public opinion.

Thus, for example, when Bush wanted to go to war with Iraq, he was forced to sweat to sell the idea. Whether or not you found his arguments persuasive then or borne out by the facts subsequently, you can't deny that he and his appointees and advisors stood before Congress and before the nation and made their case. Advocates of both sides had ample opportunity to use the public media to debate each other; Congressmen who wished to get re-elected were accountable to their voters.

Finally, I get to the point: None of this, none of this, took place in Israel prior to the withdrawal.

If you weren't here, you will find this hard to believe: Prime Minister Sharon did not appear before the public a single time to explain why he was intent to ram through a policy that he had campaigned against. Even his speech the day before the withdrawal was uninformative and taped so that he would not have to answer questions.

Likud Ministers who stated publicly that they oppose the withdrawal voted for it in the Knesset because -- and they made no bones about this -- Sharon threatened to fire them if they voted their conscience. This is possible because in Israel's parliamentary system, voters vote for a list and not for specific candidates and Ministers are usually also MKs. Thus, MKs are primarily concerned about getting on the party list, which is determined -- in the case of Likud -- by the Central Committee. So a slime-bucket like Tzahi Hanegbi (forgive the language but there is no other way to describe this guy) spends all his energy handing out patronage to his cronies on the Central Committee rather than attempting any kind of accountability to his voters. (The other day, one ex-Minister described to me how Hanegbi would sit at Cabinet meetings focused not on the relevant documents but rather on lists of Central Committee members.) Even when the Likud held a referendum, which Sharon vowed to honor, that went against the withdrawal by a 60-40 margin, no Likud Minister other than Landau and Sharansky took a stand against the withdrawal.

Chief of Staff Boogi Yaalon and head of the GSS, Avi Dichter, warned of the security dangers of withdrawal and were fired.

The press did all in its power to suppress any debate of the actual issues. To be sure, they spoke incessantly about the withdrawal and indeed invited opponents as well as supporters. But the discussion always, always, focused on some arcana -- refusal to serve, hooliganism, compensation, whatever -- and never on the simple question: is withdrawal good for Israel.

In the end, all decisions regarding the withdrawal were in fact made by the following people:
Omri Sharon -- Sharon's semi-autistic son, recently indicted on bribery charges but in fact also up to his neck in racketeering with his friend, convicted felon Shlomi Oz.
Dov Weisglass -- lawyer for Austrian casino czar, Martin Schlaff, who -- through Cyril Kern -- bribed Sharon and who is now planning a casino in Elei Sinai, one of the settlements in Azza from which all Jews have now been exiled.
Eival Giladi -- main architect of the withdrawal and, simultaneously, head of the Israel office of the Portland Trust, a London-based venture capital fund planning to invest 500 million dollars in Azza.
(Weasely disclaimer: insert all appropriate "allegedly"s and "reportedly"s in the above descriptions.)

Finally, the elementary right to demonstrate against withdrawal without being intimidated, threatened or arrested, was violated frequently and systematically. Most frightening of all is the fact that the police, the prosecution and the courts were all party to these violations. I do not make this charge casually. An organization that I am involved with is issuing a full report on these violations in a few days. In my next post (I know, I promised something else; I'll get to it), I'll summarize parts of the report.


Anonymous daat y said...

fantastic post.The amazing part of the media not following up on these reports.
And of course DB,and GH with their horrendous ,fallacious posts about the gerush.

2:26 AM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Ben-your two posts on the gerush were right on the mark. The question is, what does this horrendous atrocity, carried out by our "Jewish" goverment say about the Jewish state and the Jewish people? I made aliyah 19 years ago. Although Yamit had already happened and there was always the possiblity that settlements would be destroyed, that would only be in return for some (phony) peace agreement.A crime like this would have been unthinkable then. Now, it seems, the forces of state terror and repression now have unlimited power and can fulfill their stated goals of (1) destroying the rest of the Jewish communities in YESHA (and yes, I will continue to call it YESHA and not YOSH), (2) destroying first the political power national religious camp, and later, that of the Haredim (3) finally, dismantling the sovereign Zionist state and making Israel some sort of soulless consumer state attached to the US or EU and
under their "protection"/control.
I, for one can no longer identify with the "state" and its institutions, the army, the police, etc, because these institutions knowingly carried out illegal, immoral acts. If Sharon had received a clear public mandate to carry out this policy by means of elections or a national referendum, you could argue that I am wrong about the culpability of these state institutions, but he refused to, knowing he would lose, so I can only deem the actions of these bodies as criminal, as in a repressive dictatorship. I can no longer recite the prayer for the state. This is not because I have abandoned Zionism (I am NOT becoming an anti-Zionist Haredi), it is because the state mentioned in that prayer no longer exists. The state has abandoned Zionism and handed us over to our enemies. I believe more firmly than ever that Rav Kook's philosophy is correct. It is just that we are now living under a Hellenistic regime which is under foreign domination (sort of like King Herod acting on behalf of the Romans). I have no doubt that, in the end, our national religious philosophy will triumph, it has a large amount of support among the non-relgious, but it currently has no political power and is under active suppression by the coercive arms of the state. I will not leave Israel, it is a mitzvah to live here at all times and under all conditions, but I am going to break off as much contact as possible with the alien regime.
One of the biggest problems, I, and others who agree with me, and there are quite a few, is what to do about military service. Regardless of what regime is in power, there are 5 million Jews who still need protection by an armed force. A Jew who served in Stalin's Red Army in the Second World War was doing a mitzvah, just as someone who is serving in ZAHAL. However, we already see that the high command is totally politicized and anti-democratic, we saw how the army allowed Madhat Yusuf to bleed to death in Kever Yosef, we see how soldiers needlessly died in Jenin because the gov't didn't want to use the force they had (and which they weren't afraid to use in Gush Katif) fearing angry phone calls from Kurtzer (one of "ours"), Powell, and Bush. Do I want my son to serve in an army that clearly views it soldiers as cannon fodder? This is a real dilemma.
Regarding what I stated about my questioning the behavior of the Jewish people as a whole--Ari Shavit pointed out in an article in Ha'aretz a few days ago about the total indifference of his colleagues in the Leftist elite to the suffering this caused, the refusal of the Supreme Court to even visit the communities whose fate they were deciding, the fact that no secular Jews came to the places were the refugees were dumped to help them. I am certain that the majority of Jews in the country opposed Sharon's crime and were appalled by what happened, and yet, the non-religious did not come out either to protest Sharon's plan before it was carried out, or to help out afterwards. Why is this? Is is that many (most?) Jews no longer have a "Jewish" heart, that they don't care about their neighbor who is in trouble? I think it is because they don't even care about themselves....in the 1970's and 1980's there would be demonstrations in the event of terrorist attacks...however during the mass terror attacks of 2001-2003, there were no demonstrations. For whatever reasons, Israeli Jews are not willing to protest EVEN IN ORDER TO SAVE THEIR OWN LIVES. Why is this? What does it say about the majority of Jews? Are the Jews even capable of maintaining their state? The implications of my questions are truly frightening.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express the almost
unbearable pain I am suffering.

10:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One item I note from Bar_Kochba132's post is the following. He says "(I am NOT becoming an anti-Zionist Haredi)". The tone of the statement suggests that the phrase that was left out of this line was "chas V'Shalom" or G-d Forbid, as if the 'anti-Zionist Haredi' was one of our worst enemies. Mr. k-132 then goes on to totally blast the current Israeli government (rightly so, I think) without once realizing that is is exactly this type of government that the so-called anti-zionist haredi object to. I find that sad and ironic.

I recently suggested to a good friend of mine, a non-Charedi orthodox Oleh (now very disillusioned) who lives in YESHA that part of what is missing in Aretz is for the 'frum' to take some amount of control of the power and run the government from a more Torah oriented perspective. His response to me suggested that I was very naive and in his response detailing why the religious elements in Israel couldn't get together to from a single very strong bloc, he replaced every "s" in his post with a "$".

Our Torah teaches us that there is power in achdut. We are also taught that when one goes after idols of gold and silver, the end is destruction. Perhaps, this was a needed wake-up call to the Israeli Torah Observant public.

5:24 PM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Anonymous-I am sorry, I didn't mean to attack to the "non-Zionist" Haredim, in fact there is now no choice for us of the Rav Kook camp except to try to reach a greater degree of cooperation with them. My daughter, who attended "dati-leumi-torani" schools and was active in the protest movement to save Gush Katif, stated that she always heard about how we need "hidabrut" (communication) with the non-religious, but the Haredim were never mentioned in this context.
I believe that the Religious Zionist camp was right to cooperate with the no-longer-existing non-religious Zionist camp, there were many achievements, HOWEVER, our camp was guilty of the issur of "hanupah", which is "flattery"-telling a rasha that he is a tzaddik. We invited mehallelei shabbat, immoral people, serial adulterers, thieves, even murderers, into our yeshivot and synagogues and we danced and sung for them and told them how they were carrying out the Divine Will in building up Eretz Israel. They would smile, throw out a few words of "how important we are" and we would pat ourselves on the shoulder saying "look at what good Zionists we are, this fellow (e.g. the serial adulterer) has praised us!".
In my opinion, it was inevitable that this situation would arise, a political philosophy (Labor Zionism) based on Marxism (MAPAI) and Marxism/Leninism/Stalinism (MAPAM-MERETZ) must ultimately degenerate and then attack those who oppose it. The wake-up call should have been heard after Oslo in 1993, but our camp, out of laziness and/or stupidity instead of seeing the warning signs and reaching out to the Haredim more and building a truly independent political force and learning to stand on our own two feet (something like what Feiglin is saying, although he is wrong to work through the Likud and he certainly is not the man to do it and I do not support him) we just said "We still have Netanyahu and Sharon, we don't have to think for ourselves, we still have a big daddy to take care of us" and now we are paying the full price for relying on these hollow reeds.

6:16 PM  
Blogger mnuez said...

I recently had the privilege of introducing Tzachi Hanegbi to a group of young Jewish American activists, during which meeting I asked him how he felt about his activities at Yamit. His answer? "Well, we had some girls, so it was a lot of fun."

2:41 AM  
Blogger bar_kochba132 said...

Anonymous---you apparently unwittingly wrote something which contradicts your whole point...you stated that the anti-Zionist Haredim oppose the type of government I blasted in my previous post. HOWEVER, Yahdut HaTorah actually jointed Sharon's coalition and went along with the destruction of Gush Katif (unless, of course, you didn't mean to include Yahdut HaTorah in your categorization of "anti-Zionist Haredim").
For years, the people of Gush Katif
bent over backwards to accomadate the halachic requirements of the Haredim, especially for Shmitta. It was Gush Katif that first provided that "hasa" eaten as Maror on Pesach night. Yet, when Gush Katif needed help, Yahdut HaTorah turned their backs on them.
My statement that it is now incumbent for the national religious community to embark on dialogue and cooperation with the Haredim confronts a major problem, there is no way that this can be done throught the official political representation of the Ashkenazi Haredim. I certainly got the feeling that this body feels that they are now settling scores with the national religious community (at least partly understandable due the MAFDAL's dirty political deal with Shinui when this gov't was first established in 2003). There is no doubt in my mind that the grassroots Ashkenazi Haredim opposed what Sharon did, but unless a way can be found around their political leadership, the religious community will remain fractionated and the anti-religious forces in the establishment will continue to play them off one another (and the turn of the Haredim to be attacked will come). It is unclear to me whether this dialogue and ahdut can be brought about.

1:35 PM  
Blogger Sharvul said...

You almost had me there, Ben Chorin. All this talk about the separation of powers in a democracy and the proper democratic procedures that should have been observed. Milim kedorbanot, as they say...

But then I realized that these words were written by a member of Manhigut Yehudit, a movement that effectively stands for for the abolishment of Israel as a democratic country.

The chutzpah has no limits.

1:39 PM  
Blogger The Hedyot said...

I appreciate your presentation of the issue, but I have to admit, I don't fully grasp it. Politics has never been my strong point. Can you recommend a resource (site, book, etc.) that clearly explains the workings of how the Israeli government functions? I have a hard time considering the merits of these arguments because I don't understand the mechanisms which are supposed to be operating. Something for an uninitiated layman would be very helpful.

2:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"But then I realized that these words were written by a member of Manhigut Yehudit, a movement that effectively stands for for the abolishment of Israel as a democratic country.

The chutzpah has no limits."


and from a man who, in addition, has written reams of stuff explaining why being a kal is actually the highest form of attachment to Judaism.

7:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of this is well and good, but you haven't explained why the government didn't fall in a vote of no confidence if the majority of the population is really opposed to disengagement. And polls show the majority in favor.

7:22 AM  

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