Thursday, August 02, 2012

Special: Likud or Jewish Home Party? A Friendly but Serious Debate

A written exchange between Manhigut Yehudit supporter, Martin Ingall and Jeremy Gimpel, candidate for the Jewish Home party. 

Dear Ari and Jeremy -

I'm the guy you've heard cheering you from time to time when I see you around town, downtown or on Rehov Haim Bajayo or at Hechel Shlomo, etc. I hope there are many others like me. I'm a big admirer of your work, of your Tuesday Night Live, of your bringing light, of your sincere and successful efforts. May you meet with growing success and impact!

Now, here's my beef. God bless both of you and Daniel Hershkowitz, Naftali Bennet and Zevulun Orlev, but you're all wrong about the needed role of the Religious Zionists in Israeli politics. A separate religious party has and always will make the wrong statement. In fact, it comes form the wrong place, from an inferior and unhelpful mindset: "We are a sectoral group, advancing and protecting our sectoral interests, a pressure group, perhaps swing votes in a coalition government, certainly using our seats in the Knesset as a platform to promote our ideas. We are essentially a lobby like the other smaller parties, aspiring to be a coercive pressure group to the biggest party that forms the next government coalition. If we're real good, we'll offer a religious voice that will prevail over those of Agudat Yisrael and Shas. Our goal is to have ministers running the Interior and the Religious Affairs ministries, and maybe a chairmanship of a Knesset committee or two, on top of the Science Ministry. Just imagine our influence at that point."

It has always been and continues to be preemptive surrender, in some respects accepting and even embracing second class citizenship for the Religious Zionists. It's like you actually want to be the designated hitter on a baseball team, or the sixth man on a basketball team, or a special teams specialist on an football team. By that I mean you are relinquishing the possibility of religious Jews being among the actual political leadership of all of Am Yisrael, representing a broad spectrum of right wingers, conservatives, free marketeers, religious, nationalists, Sephardim and so forth that indeed comprise the broad and raucous spectrum of Israel's national camp. Why not set out to be the quarterback who wins the Super Bowl, the center who dominates the court and leads his team to the NBA championship, the pitcher who wins the Cy Young and MVP awards?

I believe we are called upon to fully participate and lead, by being leadership of our nation. It's way past due for orthodox Jews to stop wanting to primarily lead orthodox Jews. It's way past due that the religious see themselves as the leaders of all of Am Yisrael, the explicit leaders, holding that right and that mantle side by side with those less religious or not religious, fully, completely, without reserve. This can only be done through Likud. Whether you are fully on board with Manhigut Yehudit's agenda or not, Moshe Feiglin is 100% right about this.

Let me put it another way. Do you really see your role as primarily defending the settlements, or the Hesder yeshivot, or the Tzohar rabbis? Is it really your desire to merely influence policy as a pressure group on the majority party, Left or Right? Is that the calling of the orthodox Jew in Israel? No!

Thus, only through Likud can the religious take our rightful place as leaders in Israel's national camp, including the direct leadership of Israel's national camp.

Naftali Bennet, God bless him and with great admiration, has drawn exactly the wrong conclusions from the knockdowns of Manhigut Yehudit by the Likud Leadership. I said knockdowns, not knockouts. For it's not how hard you fall but how high you bounce that counts. You see, it is a long, plodding exercise to metabolize into the Likud leadership, to produce and attract a constituency internal to Likud that sways and then determines what will always be the leadership party of Israel's nationalists. The only choice is a multiyear, often tedious, step by step building within Likud.

So, I wish you all the best but want to be clear that your jumping on the Bayit Yehudi bandwagon is a fundamental mistake, even if you meet with some prompt or tactical success. Daniel Hershkowitz and Zevulun Orlev could have advanced our - your and my - cause most effectively long ago, by merging the party into Likud and bringing the votes from Jewish Home with them. We must deep in our kishkes see our cause as that of all Israelis, not merely that of religious Zionist Israelis. You may claim you do, but in practical terms the opposite is expressed through a sectoral party like Bayit Yehudi. Rabbi Amsalem is making the same mistake, may Hashem strengthen him in his work. All this amounts to yet another obstacle to the pace at which voices like yours and mine and people like you and me have in the party that leads Israel

Even with, for example, ten seats, Jewish Home will remain a sectoral party, with talented people like you making much less of a difference than you could have in the long run. How sad, for it is people with such ideals that are needed most in the party that leads Israel.

With Admiration and Friendship,
Martin Ingall


Shalom Martin!

Thank you so much for your well written and articulate letter. I agreed with everything you wrote in principle. I think the question is about strategy. We are hoping to run for the Jewish Home party and create an alternative to the Likud/Kadima/Ehud Barak Mish-Mash and offer people a large national (not necessarily religious) party that will eventually lead the country.

We love Moshe Feiglin. In fact we met with Shmuel Sackett today for well over an hour. He backs our move 100% as we are all working toward the same goal. Am Yisrael is not yet at the place that we can rightfully take leadership from the helm. The nation is just not there yet. That's why we love Moshe. He's a visionary. At this time we represent 15-17 seats in the Knesset but we are the most unrepresented demographic in Israel. Our homes are being destroyed and all of the "right wing" Likud MKs can scream until they are red in the face but in the end in order to lead agendas you must have political power. Shas, the Charedim, Leiberman, they have power. We have almost nothing.

We believe that the Likud is not our natural home but if we build a true national block and a real alternative we will be able to lead the country in the direction we want. It is time for us to unite and lead the country by example not assimilation.

In the end we see the value in getting involved in the Likud, but it's not the place for us. We want a unified Jewish Zionist Party and not an uphill battle trying to create the Likud into something that it's not.

May Hashem bless you for your sincerity and love of Israel.

B'Ahavat Yisrael,

Rabbi Jeremy Gimpel


Hi Jeremy -

Thank you for your reply to my email.

I appreciate what you wrote and would like to tell you and all recipients of this email why I respectfully disagree.

You write that "the nation is just not there yet." I take it you mean that the nation is not yet ready for religious leadership. Jeremy, this is neither the issue nor the problem.

The issue is whether the Religious Zionist community itself enjoys a self-concept of full and equal status in the State of Israel.

Apparently, in your view, the answer is no. In my view, the religious community as a whole is amidst a transformation in this regard right now, joined by others who desire more religiously traditional leadership or - more simply - agree with many faith-based policy prescriptions. That's why good leadership and specifically your talents are needed. Good leadership can pull the community forward. As for the rest of Am Yisrael, they are not as averse to religious leadership as you imply. In other words, I ask you to consider how your self-limiting concept, and the self-limiting concept of any sectoral or special interest party, limits what you can achieve. The way you see the matter has defined your limitations for you.

The mish-mash of the current government would be ever more dominated by Likud if the sectoral and special interest parties were operating within the Likud framework, joyfully engaging with Likud's internal constituencies and struggles and vested interests and personalities, and working hard to establish themselves as forces within the party to be reckoned with. But to do that, these parties must see themselves as striving for leadership of the nation. If this were so, Likud itself would shift to better reflect the diversity and rightward tilt of the national camp. It is a multi-year and even decades long struggle, but the only efficacious one available.

Thus, National Union as well as Yisrael Beitenu along with Jewish Home should make themselves a part of the decision making process by joining Likud and urging their constituencies to follow them. As you know as well as anyone, the leadership of the small parties is inclined to adjust political agendas to their personal agendas, namely having that Knesset seat. That is one reason why we have so many party chieftains with so few warriors.

Jeremy, as the ruling party, Likud concerns itself with all issues of concern to our country - the post office, roads, fiscal policy as well as Yesha and Hesder yeshivot. All issues, everything. Sectoral parties like Jewish Home become narrow, flagging a few issues important to the party and its limited constituency, and trying to squeeze some influence in those areas with the ruling coalition. This creates a self-perpetuating cycle of a limited constituency with limited priorities and limited leadership with limited goals.

With only admiration for your talent and creativity and accomplishments and earnestness and emunah, you and Ari, along with Naftali Bennet, have cast your lot with a party that has for decades self-selected and self-defined itself out of the inner sanctum that determines the future of Israel. Israel needs people like you and indeed the current Jewish Home MKs as part of the national leadership. I know it's a longer and harder and more complicated road to vie for position and status within the Likud, but that is where the prize is.

Time will tell which one of us is correct. I'll be happy if, bimhayra biyameinu, either one of us is. As someone with a successful track record of looking over the horizon and getting it right, I'm confident in my position and the mistake Jewish Home continues to make, election after election.

You guys are A League talent, first stringers, starters, high draft picks, ready for prime time. You should be trying out for the major leagues, but (with all due respect to Jewish Home) instead you're playing it safe by signing up for the B League.

In partnership and admiration,

Martin Ingall

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