The Verdict

     Like Occam ’s razor, sometimes great complexities can be reduced to the simplest outcomes. The verdict is in, Derek Chauvin was convicted of murdering George Floyd, and will spend decades in prison, mostly in solitary confinement. Given all the facts and circumstances, the verdict was just and reasonable.

     Nonetheless, it would be misguided to ignore the complexities of this case which have far greater implications that the fate of two men, victim and assailant. America has descended into mob rule. It is obvious – and natural – that the jury would be influenced by the months of riots and mayhem in Minneapolis that followed Floyd’s death and the threat of future violence if it did not convict. They live there, work there, and own businesses and homes there. The jury was the only barrier between the match and the fuse, and the conflagration would eventually consume them as well. How could they not convict?

Obviously, there should have been a change in venue. The jury pool was contaminated, all having viewed the video and witnessed the anarchy. Obviously, the city of Minneapolis should not have paid Floyd’s family millions of dollars on the eve of the trial, essentially admitting the liability of their police officers and further tainting the fairness of the proceedings.  Obviously, politicians should not have demanded a particular verdict or else. That is not justice but mob rule, and many Democrat politicians today perceive themselves as agent provocateurs of the mob. It is equally obvious that these matters will be raised on appeal and that that appeal will be denied, and not only on the merits. Sure, expect the appellate court to trot out hoary dicta like “no trial is perfect,” but the appellate courts are subject to the same pressures as the jury. That is a sad day for the rule of law – as was police officer Chauvin’s criminal misconduct.

I was not surprised by the verdict. Asked about it for weeks, I offered one clue: Chauvin’s testimony. If he testifies, he has a slim chance of having a hung jury (an acquittal was impossible). If he doesn’t testify, he will be convicted and deservedly so.

Recall that I waded through the turbid waters of the criminal justice system for well over a decade and tried numerous cases. Unlike most attorneys, I preferred allowing my client, the accused, to testify. Yes, yes, I am well aware of the Fifth Amendment and the defendant’s right to remain silent. Yes, yes, an accused cannot be “compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself.” All that is true, and often, when the defendant is not just guilty but guilty as sin, he should not testify.

Yet, I always felt that human nature (and jurors are humans, after all) is such that people want to hear both sides. Jurors do not just want to have the defense attorney nibble at the prosecution’s case in order to engender reasonable doubt. Jurors want to hear the accused explain himself, tell his side of the case, defend himself on cross-examination, and offer a full perspective on the matter. Of course the defendant need not prove his innocence; it is the prosecution that has to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Nevertheless, human nature is human nature, and I had good success with having my clients testify.

Here, the big elephant in the room was this unanswered (perhaps unanswerable) question: why did Chauvin keep his knee on Floyd’s neck for the last 2-3 minutes? Why indeed.

Had Chauvin testified, he could have stated that there are occasions when the suspect is motionless, pressure is taken off, and then he springs back stronger and more violent. He could have stated that for most of the time his knee was not on the suspect’s neck but on his shoulder blade, pinning him down (along with the leg restraint) without impairing respiration. He could have stated that he feared that if Floyd stood up, the mob that surrounded the police might have attacked them and the suspect could have escaped. He could have said that because of the noise of the onlookers, he did not hear his fellow officer ask him to stop. He could have spoken about the difficulties of subduing an enormous man who is high on some narcotic, thereby impervious to tasering, and resisting arrest.

More pointedly, he could have repudiated the narrative that has swept the country in the last year and provoked numerous riots, caused substantial loss of life, limb and property to innocent people, and emboldened a new generation of racial hucksters: the canard that Floyd’s murder resulted from racial animus. That is an assumption embraced by racial provocateurs and their enablers for which not a shred of evidence was ever adduced.

The great myth that has been nurtured in the last year (actually, the last decade) is that because a black person is killed, it means that he or she was killed because he was black. That is both a logical fallacy and a political narrative. Certainly, Jews were killed in the Tree of Life temple because they were Jews; so too in the Chabad of Poway. But I wouldn’t affirm that every Jew killed is necessarily killed because he is a Jew.  Whites are killed by blacks – always without a racial angle. Asians can be killed, and there is no immediate assumption that they were killed because they were Asian. That narrative is limited to the extremely rare “white on black” crime. Only then is racial animus presumed, and no evidence is ever needed.

Imagine if Chauvin had testified that he has no racial animus and never did (he was married to an Asian women before she left him after his arrest), that had Floyd been a white criminal resisting arrest and high on drugs he would have dealt with him the exact same way, that he has no history of racial animus on social media or anywhere else and has worked alongside black officers and been supervised by black superiors for years without incident and with mutual respect. How that would have changed the narrative!

Defendants do not testify to avoid exposure of their prior convictions, something that was not a factor here. Defendants do not testify when they are inarticulate and cannot present their case cogently. Perhaps that played a role here. Perhaps he had no explanation at all for his conduct – but such witnesses can be coached as to what they should say (without distorting the truth, of course). Could there have been reasonable doubt because of Floyd’s medical conditions, drug use and violent resistance?  It is possible – it took four officers to pin him down – but that version needed to be communicated by Chauvin’s testimony. To be sure, the safest route was not to have him testify. But since his conviction was assumed, this was his only chance to tell his story. It was a missed opportunity, and for that alone his conviction is deserved.

The assumption that everything that happens to a black happens because they are black – that fallacy – is what is roiling America today and is the holy grail of the myth of systemic racism. Systemic racism is an indictment that requires no evidence to support. It is a presumption that need never be proven. There is no defense to it and there is no cure for it. It is an indictment that has induced an epidemic of liberal white guilt that keeps government and corporate cash flowing to the hucksters who allege it and does nothing to ameliorate black poverty or family dysfunction. It does nothing to decrease the black on black crime that devastates those communities, and it encourages the glorification of individuals such as George Floyd and others, who, notwithstanding their wrongful deaths, were career criminals and convicted felons who primarily preyed on their fellow blacks.

It is not systemic racism to note that blacks commit a disproportionate number of crimes and thus have a disproportionate number of police interactions that – for many reasons other than race – can quickly go south.

An unfortunate consequence of Chauvin’s warranted conviction is the impetus it gives to the black supremacist movement in America and its false narrative of systemic racism. Indeed, Black Lies Matter, and as a result, policing is down, crime is way up, and the biggest victims are innocent and hard-working black people and other good Americans whose stores, businesses and livelihood are subject to the whims and predations of the mob. They are defenseless against the mayhem because the authorities have backed down.

Was justice served by this verdict? Yes. It is a tragedy for Derek Chauvin and his fellow officers who will be convicted in a few months, and a bigger tragedy for George Floyd who lost his life. It is a sign that the system works. But that system is under siege and in the current political climate cannot be rectified. This conflagration shows no signs of being extinguished. For all the talk of the verdict providing closure, the true day of reckoning is still ahead.

Virtue Shaming

     Is it time to take a stand?

     A British Court ruled last week against an actress who was fired from the production in which she appeared because the lexical archeologists found a comment from her Facebook page several years ago that referred to homosexuality as a sin. For that breach of today’s immoral norms, she was fired and ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in attorney’s fees for the prevailing side.

     Welcome to the world of virtue shaming, the attempt to denigrate, harass, persecute, cancel and eliminate any person who adheres to traditional morality. It is unacceptable, it has to stop and it will only stop when good and decent people begin to fight back and call it what it is.

     Meanwhile, a saner American court last week ruled in favor of a college professor who refused to refer to a male student as “Miss,” for, among other reasons, the offense to his Christian beliefs. The Sixth Circuit Court decided that Shawnee State University improperly sanctioned him on First Amendment freedom of speech grounds. Simply put, a professor – by extension, any person – cannot be ordered by any official body to defy reason and common sense and refer to a male as a female or vice versa. If it were otherwise, the court reasoned, “a university president could require a pacifist to declare that war is just, a civil rights icon to condemn the Freedom Riders, a believer to deny the existence of   G-d, or a Soviet émigré to address his students as “comrades.” That cannot be. This professor, now authorized to sue his university, was also the victim of virtue shaming.

      How did we ever reach this stage when virtue shaming dominates public discourse? Intimidation of traditional Jews and Christians is rampant, threats and boycotts abound, and rational discussion is impossible.

      Thus it has become objectionable, even deplorable, to speak favorably of a two parent family, of children having a father and a mother, of G-d creating a male and a female, and of the moral norms that guide such relationships. Those moral norms have been the underpinnings of Western civilization. They are being eroded because virtue shaming has become so extant that good and decent people have internalized that they must be doing something wrong. So they cluster in small groups, hide their professions of faith, keep it amongst themselves, endure the deluge of cultural offerings that disparage the beliefs they cherish – or just surrender.

     The external censorship is appalling enough; what is worse is the self-censorship, the tap-dancing around truth, common sense, and time-honored traditions in order not to run afoul of the gods of decadence and amorality. The ideals of “live and let live” and even of tolerance have been turned on their heads. The virtue-shamers want to live but not let us live. They demand tolerance for themselves and revel in the intolerance they direct at others. They seek not just to cancel people but to stifle any discussion of morality. They seek to erase G-d from society, unless it is a god of their own making that, somehow, endorses whatever they want to do and whatever norms they want to abrogate.

     Recently, I was listening to a podcast that involved a discussion by an Orthodox rabbi and his son who had declared himself a homosexual and married. The objective was to enable other families to learn how to deal with this “trauma,” as the father described it, and that goal is fair and important enough. But the moderator at the beginning ruled out any discussion of “the theological implications or policy considerations” of these relationships.  In other words, there was to be no discussion of Jewish law, Torah, sin, right and wrong, morality, or the effect of such relationships on the individual or the Jewish community.

     That is fine per se; there can be parameters to the discussion of any issue. The problem is that no one is ever allowed to rule in any discussion of “the theological implications or policy considerations” of the same sex lifestyle, its practitioner’s place in the Torah world and the problems of same sex marriage. Such discussions are deemed inherently insensitive and repugnant. Consequently, traditional voices that deem homosexual conduct a sin and same sex marriage harmful to society on both religious and secular grounds are always drowned out. There is a pervasive fear of speaking about Torah morality, the ideal family unit, proper and improper conduct. We no longer heed the Talmudic dictum (Masechet Sotah 47a) of “smol dochah v’yamin mekarevet,” push away with the left hand and draw near with the right. Rather than dochah or mekarevet, we are only told to be mekabel, mekabel, mekabel – we must accept, accept and accept, and never is to be heard a discouraging word.

      We are informed by the practitioners of virtue shaming that we are not allowed to speak about sin, overcoming certain predilections or tendencies, or the explicit prohibitions involved – and those who speak about them are insensitive, causing pain and suffering, potentially killing people, and driving them away from the community. We are told that we have to accept everyone on their terms (except people of faith) and that we are guilty of something if traditional values remain divinely ordained and thus meaningful guideposts to our lives. We are accused of being judgmental if we speak of marriage as the precondition to intimate relationships or parenthood. That too is virtue shaming.

      But of what do we have to be ashamed? Nothing at all.

     Here, in Israel, the Noam Party is routinely labeled as “extremist…radical…anti-LGBT…anti-Reform,” etc. It is a handy but duplicitous way to characterize its platform, which essentially promotes traditional Torah values, and avoids actually discussing what those values are and their merits. A recent article in Jerusalem Post was typical, castigating Noam for “seeking to amend government protections for women” without even attempting to explain how and why they would want to do such a thing. Instead the article mostly featured invective, diatribes and tirades – and absolutely nothing from a Noam spokesman.

     I have no idea what their objections are. The journalist did not feel it was relevant to include in the article. It related somehow to UN Resolution 1325 (on which an Israeli law is based). Perhaps it was the demand in the Resolution to mainstream women in combat? I have no clue. Some feminists objected to the Resolution as it portrayed women as “perpetual victims.” Maybe that was it? I don’t know. The article was both a poor example of journalism and a perfect example of virtue shaming. Is opposition to women in combat an opinion that is now beyond the pale of public discourse? Is opposition to same-sex marriage an opinion that is beyond the pale of public discourse? Is support for traditional marriage and the family, or recognition of the obvious reality that there are two genders – male and female – opinions that are unworthy of public discussion? If so, then any Jew who faithfully adheres to the Torah is subject to virtue shaming, and its consequence: attempted silencing.

    Here is how to end virtue shaming: every time it happens, call it out for what it is. Make it a new category of victimhood in a world that loves victims (almost as much as it loves catch phrases). When you hear it, or it is directed against you, tell your critic (actually, yell at your critic) “Stop virtue shaming! Stop criticizing people who love the Torah, embrace its morality and try to live according to its precepts.”

     Sensitivity is a two-way street. Those who do not hesitate to trample on the feelings of traditional Jews have no special claim to sensitivity, and especially not when they engage in virtue shaming. But sensitivity is compatible with tradition and faith; it should not be wielded as a weapon of suppression.

     We have values transmitted to us by G-d. We are proud of them. We try to uphold them. Let us not allow ourselves to be shamed by those whose newfangled values are currently in vogue but whose day will also pass. Let’s call out virtue shaming every time it happens, and it will stop.

     And the world will be a better place for all.

Elections Reflections

A few reflections on last week’s Israeli elections are in order.

I don’t recall experiencing an election in which everyone claimed victory. From the parties that barely scraped by the electoral threshold to the largest party, everybody wins in this country. Every campaign headquarters featured raucous celebrations. To be sure, in the United States, we were accustomed to losing candidates putting the best face on their defeats (“I may have lost this particular race but this election was not about me but about the movement that we created together, and that movement can never be defeated.” Whatever.)

It did not matter whether parties did better than expected, worse than expected, or as expected. Everyone feigned happiness, understandable as Israelis regularly register as one of the happiest groups of people on earth. Wasn’t the goal not merely entry into the Knesset but leadership, or at least involvement in leadership? It is as if participation trophies were being handed out. Victory was claimed by all, even if the country is no closer to having a stable government that it was a week ago. Maybe the glee is attributable to the vagaries of the system in which even the smallest party can play an outsized role in forming the next government – even if it just earned 4% of the total vote.

Watching the election analysis on television, it became clear that Itamar Ben Gvir is living rent free in the heads of most journalists and not a few politicians. His name was mentioned almost as frequently as that of PM Netanyahu. Gilad Kariv, self-styled as the first Reform rabbi to be elected to the Knesset (fourth on the leftist Labor Party list) trumpeted the significance of his own election, claiming his new position entitles him to “represent world Jewry” (despite the miniscule number of votes his party garnered) and declaring that his election is a “clear sign that non-Orthodox Judaism is becoming part of the Israeli mainstream.” Really?

By that reasoning, does the election of Ben Gvir prove that his ideology is also “part of the Israeli mainstream?” Well how can that be, since Kariv asserted that only his election proves that Israel is “not Netanyahu” and Israel is “not the successors of Kahane”? It is because Israel is also not Gilad Kariv. His conclusion is a leap of faithlessness, especially when one considers that undoubtedly more Israelis voted for the Religious Zionist party because Ben Gvir was on their list than voted for Labor because Kariv was on that list.

Certainly the lexical archeologists can dig up phrases that Kariv, Ben Gvir and other Knesset members have uttered in the past to which people object. So be it. Ben Gvir’s biggest “flaw” can be summarized as an ideology that, in the Jewish State, “Jews come first.” One can quibble with a policy or statement here or there, but would be hard pressed to explain why such a philosophy renders a person categorically unfit for service in the Knesset.

Listening to the obsessive references to his name – even terming any government in which he might serve “the Ben Gvir government” – it occurred that Israel’s left has always needed a demon on the right, and even the right wing has embraced the utility of having someone to demonize on their right. It started with Menachem Begin, who for decades was ostracized by the establishment of David Ben Gurion and even called horrible names, including likening him to a certain genocidal Nazi dictator. Eventually Begin was (obviously) vindicated, but his place was taken by Meir Kahane, Michael ben Ari and now Itamar Ben Gvir. Perhaps it would be instructive to note the irony that many nations across the globe view Israel (as a racist, bigoted state) the same way that many Israelis view Ben Gvir. Both are gross falsehoods.

Perhaps we should take a deep breath and realize that there is a place in a democratic Knesset for a Kariv and a Ben Gvir, and for a handful of others who even aspire to leadership of the Jewish State. It is mindboggling, at least to me, that aspirants for the prime ministership of the State of Israel should hold political discussions on Seder night. (It is almost as distasteful as the Jewish owner of the New York Mets negotiating a contract with one of his star players on seder night, at a restaurant, and complaining about the ravioli that was served. Perhaps, and regrettably so, even the seder has lost its attraction among assimilated Jews.)

The other media bête noire was the Noam Party, whose representative won the sixth seat on the Religious Zionist list. Noam was repeatedly described as the “homophobic” party. I searched their party platform and found no overt references to this hot button issue. Their platform focuses on the sanctity of the Jewish family and the need to strengthen it. That sounds reasonable. What clearly grates on the activists is that they have not updated their definition of the Jewish family to include any and all configurations that the human mind can conjure. They seem to be stuck in the ancient past, somewhere, oh, around the year 2010.

That they embrace policies that are not only normative Jewish law and thought but also were normative in the general society just a decade ago shows not how benighted they are as much as it shows how Western morality has utterly collapsed in the last few years and taken not a few Jews along for the ride. Thus their platform calls for strengthening Jewish identity in the land of Israel (how outrageous!) and determining Jewish status based on the prescriptions of the Torah (how novel!). It perceives the IDF as a holy army that should focus on defending Israel and not inculcating Western, post-modern norms. It wants to foster the observance of Shabbat throughout Israel and eliminate the pernicious influence of certain European NGO’s on the curriculum of Israel’s schools. Most controversially, they regard the ideal family as consisting of a father and a mother. Only in the most rabid, partisan and anti-traditional circles is that considered “homophobic.” Only those whose solitary goal in life is the complete breakdown of the societal norms that have shaped civilization from time immemorial would take offense at that. And only those with complete ignorance of the Torah teachings of Rav Zvi Tau would conclude that the political interests of radical, fringe groups in society are a paramount concern of his teachings.

Surely, Noam supporters also deserve representation in the Knesset. Their treatment by the media is nothing less than “virtue-shaming,” castigating decent people for adhering to traditional morality. That is disgraceful and unacceptable.

It might stun the activists and their journalist water-carriers to know that most people do not really think about these agenda issues all that much, differ widely on how certain needs can or should be accommodated in a Western or a Jewish state, but do not want to be lectured to. You can listen to 1000 shiurim or drashot and perhaps one will obliquely refer to these issues by which narrow-minded but passionate individuals define themselves and their life’s purpose.

And here is a wild idea. There should be a law (passed by referendum, as the Knesset never would) that any election that does not result in the formation of a government that lasts at least one year serves to bar any member of that Knesset from running in the next Knesset election. All 120 members, from the Prime Minister on down to the backbenchers, would have to sit out one election cycle. We would be pleasantly surprised how quickly governments would be formed and how long they would last.

Finally, it should be obvious that as long as Binyamin Netanyahu runs for the Knesset – notwithstanding that it is his right – there will be no stable government in Israel. But there is a way out of this morass in the short term. You can take any five or six parties and they will agree on roughly 80% of how this country is to be governed. The other 20% is the flavor in the gum – sometimes contemptible, like hatred of a particular group; sometimes noble, like advocating for traditional morality. If some amalgamation of parties could set aside its passions and prejudices, even for one election cycle, and focus on what we share jointly – security, defense, the Iran threat, the economic recovery, help for the disadvantaged, and an educational curriculum that instills Jewish pride – than a stable government is possible.

Indeed, that would make all of us winners.

The Forecast

     The likeliest outcome of this week’s election in Israel is that there will be no outcome. It doesn’t take an Einstein to realize that it is insane to do the same thing again and again and expect a different result. I am excited to be a new voter; by the next election – oh, perhaps after Succot – I will already be a veteran voter.

     That being said, there are certain points worthy of mention. The campaign has been devoid of issues except for one: “for Bibi” or “against Bibi.” It is as shallow as it sounds. The working assumption is that the Likud will again be the largest party. PM Netanyahu’s base is solid and its support for him is personal. It deems the endless media attacks on him and his legal woes as venomous fabrications. It is a populist support that should sound familiar to any American.

      Netanyahu’s run has been remarkable. On May 9, 2021, he will have served as prime minister consecutively longer than FDR served as the American president. But in a parliamentary democracy, that is astonishing and almost without parallel in the world. Angela Merkel has served as Germany’s Chancellor since 2005 but they hold elections every four years, like clockwork (it is Germany, after all) and the choice is binary. Italy, a fractious democracy like Israel, has had seven prime ministers in the twelve plus years that Netanyahu has been prime minister of Israel. He has “won” seven straight elections.

     That is not just a testament to his political skills, which alone could educate less gifted politicians. Timing the election so that Israel both acquired the Corona vaccines and distributed them flawlessly – an election on the cusp of a return to normalcy, springtime is here, Pesach days away – is exquisite, a case study in political management. And he projects an aura of leadership both because of his personal qualities and his longevity. Israeli teenagers have known no other prime minister. That is astounding.

    Timing, in life, also requires knowing when to step aside, and the longer Netanyahu has served the more vehement and angry his detractors have become. What infuriates them is that Netanyahu’s tenure has been marked by notable successes – a booming economy, a dramatic decline in terror, peace agreements with four Arab states, pressure on Iran, the relative absence of war, increasing integration of Haredim in the army and the work force, low unemployment (pre-pandemic) and others. What should infuriate others are the missed opportunities and the political zigzags that are products mostly of opportunism and unscrupulousness. Netanyahu has never failed to reach out to left-wing rivals who had condemned him during the campaigns to avoid forming a right-wing government. He has usually perceived his right-wing ideological allies (especially the Religious Zionists in whatever political form) as expendable, and only useful if his sole alternative is political oblivion. Those non-right wing saviors have included Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, Benny Gantz and others. His only stable alliances on the right have been the religious right – the Haredi parties whose interests are parochial and frequently mercenary.

     And the missed opportunities are legion. Hamas and Hezbollah are not vanquished but are stronger. They have recovered from all the skirmishes and their threats loom on the northern and southern borders. What else? Extending Israeli sovereignty to Judea and Samaria in whole or in part, and even applying civil rather than military administration to Israeli residents there; reining in the excesses of the Supreme Court by limiting their jurisdiction (now infinite) and their authority to review and reject Knesset legislation (at least until such time as Marbury and Madison make aliya); preserving Jewish identity in matters of conversion, marriage, divorce, aliya, the Kotel, etc., instead of just kicking these cans down the road; giving secular American Jews veto power over Israeli initiatives, not recognizing that their own houses are in disarray and, as such, it would be disastrous to import their ideology and ideas to Israel; allowing housing prices to so escalate as to price the average Israeli out of the housing market. And there are others as well, engendering the conclusion that Netanyahu has often talked more boldly than he has acted and his default position has often been passivity, letting problems fester rather than taking a position and risk angering some group or another.

      His coalition choices have shown him to be so malleable that, given his outreach to Arab Israelis in this election in order to offset his loss of some right wing votes to Gideon Saar’s party, it is within the realm of reason that to reach the threshold of 61 mandates to form a government, he will reach out to the “moderate” Ra’am Arab party if they enter the Knesset. That would be a first, earth-shaking, but quite possible. Of course, it bears recollection that just in the recent past Netanyahu supported the expulsion from Gaza and then opposed it, supported the two-state illusion and then opposed it, so where he winds up in any term on any particular issue is somewhat speculative.

      There are other nuances that characterize this election. Each election finds some new parties competing, and this election’s flavor of the month is Gideon Saar’s “New Hope” party. It is as if “hope” alone is insufficient, but his electoral prospects are already diminishing. The leftist parties are in danger of disappearing, simply because their ideology speaks to fewer and fewer Israelis and their proposed concessions for “peace” even fewer. Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid” (“There is a Future”) party has endured more than a decade because, among other reasons, he presents the most compelling party name: “There is a Future.” That logic is irrefutable. Avigdor Lieberman’s “Yisrael Beteinu” has morphed from an anti-Arab party to an anti-Haredi party. Give him credit for honesty: he makes no effort to conceal his hatreds. But it is jarring to see his advertisements which our negative without even a glimmer of positivity or platform: “a government without Haredim.” That is disgraceful.

      The oddity of the Haredi parties is their seemingly fixed share of the electorate even as their percentage of the population escalates, to the chagrin of Lieberman. From four seats in 1977 (Agudat Yisrael), to seven in 2013 (as UTJ) to seven today with projections either seven or six seats in this election, they don’t seem to mobilize their base and certainly not attract any support beyond their base. Granted, I personally witnessed last week amusing signs in Meah Shearim prohibiting any Jew from voting in their “impure Zionist elections” but I don’t that influences more than a relative handful of people. Nor do their voters respond reflexively to the mandates of their rabbanim, the mythology of the seculars notwithstanding. Where are those voters?

     An analogous but somewhat more comprehensible enigma is the struggle of the Religious Zionist parties in increasing their share of the vote – even crossing the electoral threshold. As noted here, the religious Zionists are victims of their own success in integrating themselves and their values into the Israeli mainstream, even if they frequently tend to moderate or suppress those values on occasion. There are religious Zionists in a half dozen political parties and the RZ voter is not easily pigeon-holed. The most cherished values of Religious Zionism are not necessarily shared by every religious Zionist. People content themselves with being generally supportive, 80%, but that missing 20% can make the difference between having a truly Jewish state or just a gathering place of Jews.

     Thus, the capable Naftali Bennett, who has always drawn Netanyahu’s ire, is attempting again to reach out to the general voters while retaining his RZ base, a neat trick if he can pull it off. The danger has always been that he then presents his party as “Likud B,” which lures potential voters back into the camp of “Likud A.” The only truly RZ party defiantly calls itself for this election “the Religious Zionist Party,” so there should not be any doubt about it. And even that party, led by the talented Betzalel Smotrich, has its RZ critics because it linked up with even further right wing parties so those votes should not go to waste, an entirely plausible proposition that seems to trouble those who seek ideological purity.

      That too remains the outstanding feature of this election, so humdrum because of its redundancy that it has attracted little international interest. Every party except for Naftali Bennett’s Yamina has underscored with whom it will not sit, leading to a macabre game of musical chairs in which, when the music stops, not enough people are sitting and so there is no government. If only more parties and people here would adopt Ronald Reagan’s aphorism: “The person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally – not a 20 percent traitor.”

     The formation of a government will rest on a very narrow margin – a seat or two or three – but there is no reason to assume that there will not be another election in the fall, as long as PM Netanyahu heads the Likud ticket. If Moshe himself found his people ungovernable, what are we to say? At least let us find the common ground that unites us and build on that.