Reflections on the Israeli Elections

This week Israel went to the polls and voted for their representatives. It was a democratic process in which all of Israel’s citizens were able to participate. And that is something to celebrate.

At the same time, whatever your political opinion or feelings about the election results, there are causes for concern. In particular, the use of fear as campaign tactic, especially fear of fellow citizens is worrying. Politics based on ethnicity, religion or fear of one or another group has almost always led to regrettable outcomes.

One of the foundations of international human rights and of democracies is the proposition that every human being has certain inalienable rights. We can be proud of Israel’s democracy, one which was designed to respect those rights for all its citizens and to protect them. To quote the reaction from Reform leaders to the election in Israel:

“We are concerned about the approach a new government may take to working with Israel's Palestinian neighbors, and, especially with the Prime Minister's 11th hour revocation of his professed support for a two state solution. When the Prime Minister says that if he is elected there "will not be a Palestinian state", we are left to wonder what type of future he envisions. A non-democratic future in which a Jewish minority rules over a Palestinian majority? Or a non-Jewish future in which democracy is preserved, but, inevitably, the Jewish character of the state will disappear?”

The idea of an Israel that discriminates against certain groups living within its borders will be a cause for great discomfort for many. At this moment, the democratic and pluralistic values expressly stated in Israel's Declaration of Independence need our support. We urge the Prime Minister to form a coalition that will respect and reflect openness and pluralistic values for all of Israel’s citizens and not reflect discrimination of one religious denomination over another or one ethnic group over another.

The election may leave us with additional work here in our own communities and countries. Our governments, our neighbors and members of our own communities, including in particular the younger members of the Jewish community, are likely to be especially concerned about the results of the recent elections and the policy directions indicated by the public statements of leading politicians. This may be particularly true in the area of the Israel-Palestinian relationship. This challenge is ours to take up. We will each have to find our own comfort level since it will impact us all in some way. Where we have criticism or concerns, address them constructively as part of the ongoing dialogue between Israel and the Jewish diaspora and its non-Jewish supporters.

We remain committed to the security of the State of Israel and to the right to life enjoyed by all human beings. As we have hoped and prayed for generations, May Israel be a light to the nations and may it be a place from which Torah, the embodiment of our highest ideals and aspirations, issues forth.

by Rabbi Ira Goldberg