Prime Minister Naftali Bennett

 There was once a conservative politician who became prime minister through some parliamentary maneuvering, having not been elected to the position. Members of his own party despised him and deemed him unfit for high office. He then served with distinction. His name was Winston Churchill and after he was appointed Prime Minister of Great Britain in 1940, he inspired, guided and led Britain to a victory over the Nazis. He even cajoled major world powers, like the United States, to view the conflict as he did.  

    There was also a politician who had enormous political and military achievements to his credits. Under very trying circumstances, it is widely assumed that he saved his nation from destruction and even from entering into a premature “peace” agreement involving concessions with a hated enemy. Instead he relentless pursued victory – and he won. For his efforts, little over a month after the war ended, his grateful nation summarily threw him out of office. That man – also Winston Churchill –was not just ousted from office; he and his party lost in a crushing landslide. Privately, though, he refused to denounce his people for their ingratitude. Instead, he accepted his defeat graciously, with typical good humor.

     None of this is to suggest that either Naftali Bennett or Binyamin Netanyahu is Winston Churchill reincarnate. History repeats itself but never precisely. But count me in the very small camp that is not devastated by or deliriously happy about the impending fall of Netanyahu, or is overly trepidatious over the impending Bennett government (which will still shock me if it occurs). I did not vote for either man, but perhaps a little perspective is in order about each of them. 

    It is still hard to digest the antipathy that exists in much of Israel to Netanyahu – a man whose political accomplishments are as considerable as his personal flaws. Having lived through the sheer hatred many Americans spewed against George W. Bush and Donald Trump, it is worth noting even that did not engender the non-stop protests that Israel has seen against Netanyahu over the last few years. From one vantage point, Netanyahu is probably the most successful Prime Minister Israel has ever had. His tenure was marked by relative security, relative prosperity, a modernized military, an energized economic juggernaut, peace with multiple Arab nations that provided Israelis with hope that we will finally gain some measure of acceptance in the Arab world, the litany of Trumpian pro-Israel moves, and a resolute defense of Israel’s interests on the world stage and, when necessary, to the United States. 

   From that standpoint, it is inexplicable why he has never won 40 or 50 seats in the Knesset. That he maxes out at 30-32 mandates – roughly a quarter of the population – is attributable in small part to the various other ideologies that inhabit denizens of this land, but in much larger part to his character defects that have simply disgusted the leaders of six other parties and preclude them from working with him even for the good of the population. It is strange, perhaps unconscionable, but politics is personal. All the right-wingers who currently refuse to work with Netanyahu worked with him in the past and now demur. Moreover, he has this irritating, even oleaginous habit, of accusing his rivals of doing what he himself once did, is doing, and will do in the future. 

     A lesser mystery, only because he is less known, is the hysteria greeting the ascendancy of Naftali Bennett. It is as ridiculous to assert that the leader of a six person party cannot be prime minister as it is to assert that the winner of the popular vote, not the Electoral College majority, in American presidential elections should be the president. Those are not the rules of the game. Besides, Bennett’s triumph is akin to the coach whose 8-8 wild card team wins the Super Bowl. They didn’t win that much, they might not be the best team in objective terms but they won when it counted. One would think that anyone with those political skills would be acclaimed.

          Well over a decade ago, I met Naftali Bennett for the first time when he visited Teaneck, the New Jersey town where he lived for several years as a child. It was before he had entered politics but he spelled out to me his plans for future. In particular, he underscored how disconcerting he found it that Religious Zionists accepted being adjuncts to power but never leaders, and his objective was to someday become Prime Minister. I was skeptical, he was determined, and one can only admire someone who has a vision and executes it. All politicians are ambitious but despite the zigzags he has remained faithful to the motivating factors that ushered him into politics.  

       It is unfair to hold him out as the Religious Zionist standard bearer. He always intended to broaden the base of Religious Zionism beyond Religious Zionists; hence the long time alliance with Ayelet Shaked. One can fairly say that he used the Religious Zionist infrastructure to get ahead but politicians have ambition like they have hearts and lungs. I have heard some argue that he has no ideology except gaining power. I don’t accept that because power is only valuable when it is used in pursuit of some policy aim. Most of his stated policy aims, for years already, are ones that can be welcomed.

            Similarly, the indictment that Bennett has betrayed his voters or lied to the electorate is a bit overbroad. Political campaigns traffic in misstatements and prevarications (as in the old joke: How do you know when a politician is lying? When you see his lips moving.) Sure, he made promises not to sit with this one or that one, often couched in coy language and sometimes even contradictory, as they all did. But, as I recall quite clearly, he had one overarching theme that he underscored again and again: to do everything in his power to prevent a fifth election. I believe that is his guiding principle.

     One can fairly ask what is wrong with a fifth election. After all, we survived the first four quite well. The answer is that pursuant to the current constellation of parties and personalities the fifth election would only be the prelude to the sixth or seventh. And at a certain point, even anarchists will have had enough. It should be clear that as long as Netanyahu heads the Likud, with all his talents and accomplishments, he cannot form a majority coalition and his governments will be a hodgepodge of strange bedfellows, and short-lived to boot. That is where we are and that has to change.

      Obviously, the government that is a blatant hodgepodge of strange bedfellows is the proposed one whose only common objective is ending Netanyahu’s historic reign. Most troubling, it contains a number of unsavory characters whose presence should concern sentient Jews, both for reasons of character and policy. There are people who will sit in the Cabinet who, if reason and common sense ever prevailed, should never come within missile range of the levers of power. Hatred (like love), Chazal tell us, mekalkelet et hashurah, upsets the natural order. It causes people to do things they would never have contemplated doing. Hatred for Netanyahu spawned the creation of this patchwork government. Can that same hatred keep it alive? 

      The potential harm can be mitigated if Israeli politics becomes even a little less tribal. The fear of a center-left government is exaggerated. What will exist is a center-right-left government, which is to say, no government at all. But if twenty Likud members break away and join the coalition, there is no need for Ra’am, Meretz or Labor – and suddenly the right-center-left government is a center-right government, which it should have been all along. If Shas joins, there is no need for Lieberman. Who knows what is planned? Opposition is a lonely place to be, and opposition MK’s usually do little more than call press conferences, rant on talk shows or whistle into the wind. And it is most unpleasant to see the joy on the faces of left-wing politicians whose vision of a Jewish state has little Jewish about it and are ecstatic at this unexpected turn of events. 

     There is certainly cause for concern going forward. One would hope that, for all the joys of being in government or having a ministry, if the anti-Torah forces demand that the Torah, Jewish values and the Jewish character of the state (conversion, personal status, etc.) be undermined, religious Jews like an Elkin or an Urbach – even a Bennett – will know to walk away and thus end the whole exercise. If Ra’am suppresses the ability to protect Jewish life and property, or seeks to override the law and permit illegal building (something that the government has overlooked for years, except when Jews did it) one can hope that a Shaked or a Sa’ar will know to walk away.

      The collective fear of Netanyahu’s descent and Bennett’s ascent is also fear of the unknown. Netanyahu has been the leader for what amounts in democracies to an eternity. Bennett has been successful in all his ministries and in his business life, but who knows if that translates into the leadership of a fractious nation?

      Sure, there is fear that the left will fulfill all its policy wishes: no Shabbat in the land, religious pluralism, mass conversion, reduced funding for Yeshivot, a halt on settlement in Judea and Samaria – in short, an assault on the Jewish character of the land of Israel. That cannot, should not and need not be. I doubt that it will happen. In fact, I doubt much of anything will happen. But perusing the right-wing wish list of the last few years – increased settlement, limiting the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, preserving the sanctity of Shabbat against commercial onslaught – we should recall that none of that happened under a right-wing government. 

    If we take the politicians at their word – admittedly a hazardous exercise – the dreams of each of the motley crew that will constitute the next government will be put on hold, both the religious and the secular dreams. Granted that the only real item on the agenda of the change government will be changing the prime minister, and that happens automatically. After that, nothing much will change. 

   As such, the government should focus on three or four important tasks on which some unanimity might be possible – dealing with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah, spurring middle class (not luxury) housing construction, cooling social tensions in society, improving infrastructure, growing the free market economy and kicking other cans down the road. The latter is a particular expertise of the adroit politician. The members of such a government are not abandoning their values as much as they are deferring their realization to a time when they are actually possible to realize. 

     There are some grounds for optimism in the short term, except among those who believe that Netanyahu has a permanent claim to power. It is no denigration of his achievements to note that democracy does not function like that. Nevertheless, right-wingers and religious Jews can be suspicious, and perhaps even disappointed.  But disappointment that is unaccompanied by an alternative other than permanent stalemate is counterproductive. We would do better to be cautious without being negative and strengthen Bennett during the invariable crises that this hydra-headed government will face to ensure that the destiny of Israel moves forward to a complete Jewish state. It would certainly behoove us to reach out, underscore the grave danger in some of the contemplated religious reforms and work to prevent them, and try to be good influences rather than hysterically rant and rave from the outside, which accomplishes nothing. 

    In the meantime, Netanyahu can bask in the well deserved accolades for his tenure and finish his trial in due haste. (I hope he is acquitted – and I also hope his trial is not dragged out for years.) It would be good for him and the nation if a PM Bennett utilized his services if needed, as a special envoy to world leaders with whom Netanyahu has had a fine working relationship. Note as well that the incoming government is one that is built not to last. As shocking as are these turns of events, it will be even more shocking, even inconceivable, if Yair Lapid becomes prime minister in two years. And if the government succumbs and indulges the leftist wish list – forsaking the land of Israel and its Torah – then it will be catastrophic, a sad echo of the right-wing implosion in 1992 that heralded the Oslo fiasco.   

   Remember too that the reviled, routed Winston Churchill was elected Prime Minister in 1951 – the only time he actually was voted into the prime minister’s office – and at age 77. By comparison, all the current politicians are still wet behind the ears. Politics is filled with second and third comebacks, as well as journeys into the unknown.

Systemic Racism

The fact is undeniable. The United States of America was and is afflicted with systemic racism. But hear me out.   
    It cannot be held against the Founding Fathers that Dutch, Spanish, British and other colonizers brought over thousands of black slaves in the 150 years before independence. Sad to say, slavery was very much a part of that era and spanned the globe. But the Founders are responsible for enshrining into American law systemic discrimination (including slavery) against disfavored groups, and blacks top that list. The Constitution’s “three-fifths compromise” was an attempt to improve the status of blacks. The Southern states wanted each black to be fully counted in order to increase their representation in Congress but without granting any civil or voting rights to blacks. The Northern states objected and the compromise was reached that as long as blacks were denied rights, five blacks would be counted as three.     

Be that as it may, it is indisputable that blacks suffered discrimination. They were denied basic human rights, enslaved, considered chattel, and could not live with dignity. It is also true that a gruesome Civil War was fought –the bloodiest in American history – during which blacks were fully emancipated. The South remained obstreperous, and harsh, discriminatory laws lingered for almost a century until the march of history flattened the racists and bigots who measured human life only by the color of one’s skin.  

    It is also indisputable that bigotry in other forms was also rooted in American life. For decades after American independence, Jews in some places were denied the right to vote and own property, and Blue Laws that prohibited Sunday work forced Jews to choose between observing Shabbat and being unable to work for two consecutive days, something that was financially untenable for many Jews.

Infamously, Chinese and other Asian immigrants were categorically excluded by racist immigration laws, and Catholics who came to America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries dealt with enormous prejudice. Indeed, it is perhaps inevitable that the most heterogeneous society on the planet should suffer from racism. Newcomers, and others with different values, lifestyles or even religion, are greeted with suspicion. Most countries are homogeneous, severely restrict immigration and citizenship, and mostly avoid the pitfalls of racism. But they lose out on the advantages of the heterogeneous society.

      Yet, America, a unique country in that it construed itself as a melting pot that welcomed all nationalities and faiths, dealt with its prejudices in a sustained way, changing laws and transforming hearts and minds along the way. It attempts to be as free of hatred as any individual can possibly be, hatred being an emotion that is part of our makeup. There is no multi-ethnic society in the world today that is as free and as welcoming as is America, which, for some strange reason, continues to be a magnet for immigrants across the globe who want to live in that systemically racist society.      America progressed because it embraced Martin Luther King’s vision of people being judged “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  

   Unfortunately, though, the US still retains “systemic racism;” it is just that the targets of its systemic racism today are no longer blacks but whites and Asians.    

Consider the following. There is a Marxist, anti-Jewish, anti-Israel and anti-American group called Black Lives Matter that has achieved much notoriety in recent years. It is extraordinarily well funded and it has achieved notable political gains, including gaining a strong foothold in the Democratic Party. It is by definition a racist group; obviously, a group that called itself “White Lives Matter” would be considered racist. This group has elevated skin color above everything else. By this standard, Rev. King is a racist too because he rejected the stupidity that skin color means anything. To these people and their supporters, skin color means everything. That is racist, systemic racism, racism that is built into the American system.

      Thus, adherents to their philosophy seek segregated college dorms and graduations – just for blacks. They want to be exempt from certain laws and prosecutions – but only for themselves. They demand preferential treatment in employment and college admissions – just because of their skin color. They are favored today with government handouts – from agricultural subsidies to scholarships to housing assistance – all unrelated to need and only related to skin color. That is racist. “Critical Race Theory” – that everything, but everything, in society revolves around skin color – is racist. It is a smack in the face to traditional American values. It is astonishing that it is tolerated, much less taught in schools to impressionable children.

      The ruling powers have abandoned the pursuit of equality of opportunity, which is morally sound, for pursuit of equality of result, which is morally repugnant as well as impossible to achieve without confiscating assets from one group to give to another. The Biden administration has embraced identity politics to the extreme. Government appointments are not at all based on competence but on complexion, gender, national origin or some other irrelevancy. It is almost a parody – fill in here a black female and there an Eskimo, here an American Indian and there a Hispanic. Qualifications are secondary considerations. It would be a fantastic parody but for the pervasive panic of the parodist losing his livelihood and possibly his life pointing out the obvious absurdity.   
It is unbecoming, even disgraceful, to scan team rosters (except for the NBA), company letterheads, corporate boards, movie credits and the granting of awards to count how many of each group is represented, and then to change the format, composition or standards to augment the number of one group and limit the number of another. That too is systemic racism. Identity politics is racist to the core. The sacred value of “diversity” is also racist because its sole criterion is physical appearance rather than ideas, values, or ability. Skin color has become such a definitive characteristic that the media has begun to refer to Blacks or Black (upper case) and not black or blacks. Whites remain white, stuck in the lower case.     
They have roped in well meaning Jews as well, Jews who are overcome by guilt because somehow while hiding from the Czar’s predations in the Pale of Settlement, Jews too were responsible for slavery in the American South. The recent Gaza War exposed Black Lives Matter as an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish hate group. Jews who last year endorsed and thus empowered BLM – liberals, leaders, organizations, even rabbis – were woefully misguided. Some have admitted their error and walked back their support. Others, in their misplaced guilt exacerbated by fear, still support them in order to escape the horror of being labeled “racists.” These Jews timidly refuse to condemn BLM’s anti-Jewish and anti-Israel rhetoric. They don’t see the irony in supporting racists who want to destroy them just so that they can avoid being called racists – by the racists themselves. They indeed are providing their enemies with the rope that will be used to hang them. Jewish groups are quick to denounce white supremacists who are a fringe in today’s America, scorned outcasts, and give a pass to the black supremacists who are well organized, well funded, unafraid to spread their racism and Jew hatred and who constitute a sizable part of America’s leftist political mainstream.    

Every nickel or job provided to any person simply based on skin color – and not given to another because of his skin color – is an example of systemic racism. The same is true of any advantage, benefit, unequal treatment, grading on a curve, etc. – whenever the determinant is skin color or ethnicity, the winner is a beneficiary of systemic racism and the loser is a victim of systemic racism. Similarly, attributing every crime committed by a white against a black to the fact that he or she is black without any evidence is also racist. It also pointedly ignores the dismal fact that 95% of crimes committed against blacks are perpetrated by other blacks.     
Asians particularly are suffering the effects of the newest version of systemic racism, suffering discrimination in admissions and employment that the elitist, establishment denizens of an intimidated America only wink at.     

The United States made enormous strides and at great cost overcame the legacy of the systemic racism that tarred its founding. How unfortunate is it that systemic racism still exists and is being perpetuated, and in many cases celebrated, by its current beneficiaries. What has changed is the victims of that racism are not the original victims but whites, Asians and others who still see America as the land of liberty, freedom, equality and opportunity for all. 

    Can the King vision will be realized? Not in the short term. Today’s systemic racism is too entrenched. But its prospects in the long term will define America’s viability, prosperity and domestic harmony. It was Chief Justice Roberts who wrote more than fourteen years ago that “the way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.” It is probably the most sensible opinion he has expressed.  Let’s hope it doesn’t take another Civil War to eradicate the modern manifestation of systemic racism. 

Political Predicaments

   The proposed government of Naftali Bennett and Yair Lapid reminds one of a schmorgasbord table that is filled with food – kosher and non-kosher, meat and milk, and not quite separate and distinct. You don’t know where to start eating or whether or not to start eating. It looks tempting but the probability of eating treif is as likely as that of eating kosher. Without a mashgiach it is impossible and even with a mashgiach it is inadvisable. It is thus best to walk away.  

    The motivation for such a government is certainly understandable. A society cannot forever endure political instability. Four elections in a parliamentary system in a divided country have produced gridlock and the likelihood of further elections ending this morass in a decisive way is quite remote.  As long as PM Netanyahu leads Likud, the result will be electoral paralysis. He will always win the largest number of mandates but never quite enough to form a government. 

     Let’s face it. Netanyahu has many achievements to his credit. He has served longer in office than did Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the United States. Millions of people cannot imagine another individual as prime minister. He kept the country relatively safe and presided over unprecedented peace and prosperity. His relations with world leaders is unparalleled, as is his ability to exploit opportunities in the Arab world, Russia, China and with friendly Western countries such as the United States, as well as knowing how to survive hostile administrations. All this should be acknowledged by those people whose hatred for him blinds and cripples them.   

  Nevertheless, it must be conceded that he is a flawed individual. At the top of his list of defects is that Netanyahu is a bad breaker-upper. Too many people who have worked for him and closely with him despise him and that has created the current gridlock. If there is a villain in this muddle, it is Gideon Saar whose refusal to join a Netanyahu government precludes the establishment of a right-wing government that reflects the overwhelming majority of the population. But Saar is just one of many politicians and personalities whose relationship with Netanyahu has collapsed. If Likud polls in the 30’s as the largest party, it is never going to matter if 70 other Knesset members refuse to work with him. He, of course, is further hampered by the ongoing criminal trials against him that may not end for years. The wheels of (in)justice do grind slowly.   

  Truth be told, the PM’s record is not unblemished. He has always been coy towards the right wing, fully embracing their ideology only during elections. He was for the Expulsion in Gaza before he was against it. He endorsed the two-state delusion before he (sort of) walked away from it. His record on settlement building is decidedly mixed, always talking bombastically but without the deeds to match the rhetoric. No one campaigns from the right better than he does but campaigning is not governing. He has allowed Jewish outposts to be brutally destroyed but has turned a blind eye to illegal building in the Arab sector. He did a lot for Israel – but he could have expanded settlements even more, could have reined in the Supreme Court with limiting legislation, could have cracked down on the illegal weapons and crime among Israeli Arabs, could have expanded the Israeli housing market so there is availability other than luxury homes, etc.  The latter could have been accomplished in Judea and Samaria, and that is a missed opportunity and remains an unsolved problem.  

   Netanyahu also has the less than endearing habit of attacking his opponents with his own flaws. He has accused Bennett and Saar of enabling a left-wing government – but didn’t he do that in the past with Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni and Benny Gantz? He accused Bennett of wanting to form a government with Yair Lapid – but didn’t he do that in 2013? He accuses the new team of seeking to rely on Arab votes for its viability – but didn’t he just to do the same thing? He accused Bennett of being obsessed with becoming prime minister at all costs – but isn’t he obsessed with being prime minister at all costs?    

    All politicians should occasionally look in the mirror so they should know whom they are really addressing when they become the most passionate.  What Netanyahu must hate most about Bennett is that Bennett reminds him, too much, of himself. 

    That being said, the dangers and opportunities of this hybrid government are enormous. Their only common denominator is hatred of Netanyahu, which might help form a government but certainly not guide or sustain it. If a Minister of Transport Michaeli decides to destroy Shabbat by having public transportation and commerce or if a Minister of Finance Lieberman squeezes Torah education by freezing money to Yeshivot, then Bennett will rightly suffer lifelong ignominy. If a left wing government legalizes same sex marriage or imports some other madness from the Western world, then he will be to blame. Recall that the very first item on Yamina’s platform is to strengthen Jewish identity and the Jewish religious heritage  in the land of Israel. If a Bennett led government weakens Torah and Jewish identity – indeed, heads a government that lacks Sefaradim and religious Jews – that too would be shameful, and the price paid to him in future elections pales before the contempt Jewish history will have for him.  

    Yet, there are advantages to such a government as well, assuming religious life is not devastated by it, and they bear some reflection. A cult of personality is damaging in any environment, religious or political. No politician should ever think he is indispensable. Democracy is reinvigorated, even safeguarded, by the presence of new blood.  A Netanyahu forced out of office is unlikely to return and a new era in Israeli politics begins. Due credit, on balance, will be accorded him for his long and mostly successful tenure. A Bennett-Lapid government will have the benefit of dealing with a Biden administration that does not know them, that has been gearing up to pressure Netanyahu and will not quite know how to handle a right-winger and centrist, both on record as opposing the two-state delusion. Such an inherently unstable government will not be able to make any concessions at all, and will be bolstered by its right-wing opposition. But such a government will be able to deal forcefully with Arab terror and threats to the security of Jews both foreign and domestic. 

      There is a way forward out of this discordant daze in which we live. Obviously, if Netanyahu stepped down as head of Likud, and a new leader – say, for argument’s sake, Nir Barkat – was appointed, a right-wing government would be formed in 30 minutes. But as that won’t happen in the short term, here is what might (should?) happen.

     Assume that the Bennett- Lapid government is sworn in with the support of four Arab mandates. Ten members of Likud can then break away, form their own faction, join the government, and there is already a sizable Jewish majority. Then, one or two of the religious parties can join the government as well, which obviates the need for Labor and/or Meretz to control any portfolios. The end result is a right-wing government, respectful of Torah and tradition, strong and resolute, but including Lapid and Lieberman who, like it or not, do represent a sizable part of the Israel electorate. In two years we can worry about what will happen in two years, which is an eternity in Israeli politics (or, recently, the equivalent of four election cycles).

     That being said, it will be shocking if Bennett and Lapid are able to form a new government this week, and if they do, doubly shocking if it lasts even six months. But they will have achieved their primary goal, for better or for worse, of ousting Netanyahu from power.

Intended Consequences

     “This nation is peaceful, but fierce when stirred to anger. This conflict was begun on the timing and terms of others; it will end in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”    

It would be exhilarating if Israel’s Prime Minister spoke these words and meant them. But this is actually part of the stirring speech given by President George W. Bush at the National Cathedral on September 14, 2001, just three days after the vile Arab-Muslim terrorist attack of September 11 that killed thousands of innocent Americans. There were no calls for restraint, proportionality or a cease fire. Instead, President Bush appropriately reserved for himself and his nation the right to end the way “in a way and at an hour of our choosing.”    

  That is an elementary right, part of natural law. No one had to acknowledge America’s right of self-defense, and certainly not as a grand concession. But Israel’s right to defend itself, according to much of the world, is not absolute and subject to limitations, and our right to conclude this war “in a way and at an hour of our choosing” is non-existent.  

   What has changed through this recent conflict? Why did Israel agree to a cease fire? And why does this sane government constantly do the same thing and expect different results?   

   There are two ominous takeaways. One is the questionable loyalties of many Israeli Arab citizens, who rioted in the mixed cities, assaulted Jews, desecrated Jewish holy sites, and were treated as victims by the Israeli police who arrested Jews who defended themselves while letting the Arab marauders slip free. That they are nihilistic enough to betray the only country in the region where they can live freely is not such a surprise; hatred runs deep. A variety of well meaning organizations will surely try to paper over the violence (“blaming both sides” always works) and call it aberrational but this fissure in Israeli society will linger without resolution, awaiting the next explosion. It is bad enough to have such a fifth column in our midst, however small their number; it is even worse to lose faith in the police, which absented itself from the rioting, failed to quell it to any significant degree, and focused on inhibiting Jews from responding. 

      Part of the feckless response will be noted in the Supreme Court decision on the Sheikh Jarrah real estate dispute. The case seems open and shut – some residents are squatters and others have no legal title to the land and refuse to pay rent – and if the Court caves because of fear, intimidation and public pressure, then it is even clearer that there is a two-tiered system of justice in Israel, with Jews getting the short end of the stick.

      The second consequence is predictable, and here past results are indicative of future performance. Hamas will derive lessons from this conflagration as it has from the previous ones. The lethality of its weapons continues to improve, as does their precision. Israel’s remarkable ingenuity blunts most of its impact, but there is tragic loss of life, limb, and treasure, and a complete disruption of normal life. Hezbollah will learn as well, and thus each subsequent conflict becomes, if not more deadly, then certainly more disruptive. 

     That interference in our lives is the primary goal of Hamas. It cannot achieve any political or military goal. My sympathies for the “innocent civilians” of Gaza are somewhat limited, considering that they voted Hamas, a genocidal terror group, into power in 2005. They didn’t vote for Hamas because of Hamas’ trade policies. They knew for whom they were voting. Bear in mind that one of the putative reasons for the latest round of Hamas violence is Hamas’ desire to improve its electoral position for the upcoming (but never quite arriving) Palestinian elections. That means that, according to their calculus, Hamas gains votes by subjecting its “innocent” citizens to Israeli reprisals. Hamas wins more support when it places its rockets and arms in residential buildings and neighborhoods, with the attendant consequences to “innocent” civilians when their buildings are blown up. Such civilians may not be as innocent as the media presents them to be. 

    Nor is the media itself. Can it really be that the Associated Press or Al Jazeera did not know that they shared an office building with the Hamas intelligence services? If so, it is the worst case of journalistic malpractice – or willful ignorance – since ace reporter Lois Lane could not figure out that her colleague Clark Kent was Superman.    

Of course, it is worth remembering that Hamas only took power from the defeated Fatah of Mahmoud Abbas after a brief war in which they killed hundreds of each other and civilians. Fatah officials were literally thrown off the roofs of their office buildings, something less than an orderly transition of power. Hamas murders more Arabs than it does Jews. Its political echelon lives not in the squalor of Gaza but in the luxury of Qatar. Its leaders abscond with the money foolishly provided by the West if they are not using it to build munitions factories and underground tunnels. For all the billions sent their way in the last two decades, not a single “refugee” camp has been closed or renovated.

     Why, then, does Israel tolerate Hamas? Why can’t the most vaunted and feared army in the Middle East vanquish this band of terrorists who, as their charter states, seek to “obliterate” Israel and Jews from the face of the earth? How many times must we play the same macabre game?      One answer might be that Israel wants Hamas to suffer – but also to survive. Hamas remains because Israel wants it to remain.    

Don’t get me wrong. Israel would rather have peace and prosperity, and welcomes good relations with all Arab nations. It certainly would prefer, ideally, that there not be genocidal maniacs to our southwest. But the existence of Hamas plays a practical role in Israeli calculations.   

    Consider: if Israel invaded Gaza for the purpose of conquest, there would be one of two results. There would be great bloodshed, followed by calls for an Israeli withdrawal to which Israel would invariably succumb. Conversely, Fatah would take over. And then?   

    There would be a renewed demand for some territorial linkage between Gaza and Samaria, and Israeli “gestures” (i.e., concessions) for the sake of peace. More importantly, this would provide new life to the two-state illusion, the fanciful idea that the land of Israel can be partitioned again into Jewish and Arab states and co-exist peacefully. For some reason – probably because the West needs to project one Arab group in this conflict as moderate – Abbas, Fatah and the PA are always perceived as possible diplomatic partners for Israel, notwithstanding that President Abbas is a dictator, rules with an iron fist, enriches himself and his family, has little popular support and hates Israel no less than does Hamas.  

    Hamas is the counterweight to this two-state delusion because Israel can point to the dangers of ceding land to any Arab entity, as Israel did with Gaza sixteen years ago with deleterious results. The specter of Hamas seizing power in any potential independent Arab entity has rendered the two-state illusion moribund even to the Israeli left and, frankly, frightens much of the Arab world as well. As long as Hamas exists, two states are impossible. If Israel wanted Hamas gone, Hamas would be gone.     

Israel’s recent strategic thinking has been quantitative rather than qualitative. It seeks to degrade the enemies’ capabilities every few years but without actually crushing the enemy. Perhaps, then, this is Israel’s qualitative strategy – to keep Hamas as a player in the game because it serves as a useful foil and precludes Israel from acquiescing to a further partition. Such a strategy, cynical though it might be, is not unreasonable. The problem in kicking the can down the road is that the enemy’s capabilities continue to improve and that would make the next war even deadlier. It also leaves Israel vulnerable on the diplomatic front as various Western nations – including the United States – want solutions and not protracted conflict, even if solutions are impracticable and illusory. America’s support for the two state illusion is less than two decades old but politicians speak of it as if it has always been American policy.  

    Indeed, the rise of Jew hatred in the United States is also menacing. Jews especially should take note and seek to counter the explicit Jew hatred that now predominates in a leading wing of the Democrat Party. It is understandable if they can’t – “where is Schumer?” – but the silence of the Jews is still unacceptable and embarrassing. Can it be that American Jewish support for the Democrats exceeds American Jewish support for Israel? 

     If that is the case, then the continued deterioration of the American Jewish community is more dangerous than even Hamas –and even Israel’s tolerance of Hamas, which will rebuild quicker than last time, as we await, G-d forbid, the next round of hostilities.  

   The good news is that, as always, Jews in Israel rally around each other in difficult times, and furthering Ahavat Yisrael is its own reward.