Actions vs. Personalities - December 23, 2022

I hope you are having a Happy Chanukah! And, with the current weather in the metro area, I hope you are safe.


Speaking of Chanukah, watch this 60 second video on why we will not celebrate Chanukah in 3031 and instead twice in 3032.


As we approach the end of the calendar year, the Jewish Federation’s 2023 Campaign for Community Needs continues to grow. You can help our community through your generosity -- every gift makes a difference, especially during these challenging times. Please give generously.


In addition, as we approach the end of the calendar year, please make your tax deductible contribution/payment.


I heard a great quote this week:


“Years ago, social media was an escape from the real world.

Now, the real world is an escape from social media.”




I feel like I write a lot about what is happening in Israel when I know there is also so much happening here. However, I think the current news there and potential implications are very important for us to hear.


Wednesday night, incoming Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed President Isaac Herzog that he has the ability to form a new government, which will be supported by a coalition of 64 out of the Knesset’s 120 seats. The new government will likely be sworn in on January 2, 2023 and Netanyahu will become Prime Minister for the third time.  


While there are many reports regarding likely appointments to ministerial portfolios and the content of coalition agreements, nothing has been formally announced by the Prime Minister-Designate.


The new governing coalition will be comprised of the following parties (and their number of seats in the Knesset):


Likud (Netanyahu) -- 32

Shas (Orthodox Sefardi) -- 11

Religious Zionists (Smotrich) -- 7

United Torah Judaism (Orthodox Ashkenazi) -- 7

Jewish Strength (Ben Gvir) -- 6

Noam (Avi Maoz) -- 1


Total -- 64


The opposition will be made up of the following parties (and their number of seats in the Knesset):


Yesh Atid (Lapid) -- 24

National Unity (Gantz) -- 12

Yisrael Beiteinu (Liberman) -- 6

Ra’am (Abbas) -- 5

Hadash-Ta’al Arab List -- 5

Labor -- 4


Total -- 56


As the results of the election were announced and the negotiations to form a government proceeded, there has been considerable criticism in Israel and around the world about the policy positions and the statements of members of the coalition.


Significant concern has been voiced especially over three factions that ran as a single bloc in the elections making up the broad Religious Zionist Party: (1) Religious Zionism, led by Bezalel Smotrich, (2) Jewish Strength, led by Itamar Ben Gvir, and (3) Noam, led by Avi Maoz. (See more here). The three leaders and others in their parties have a long history of radical statements, and members of Israel’s opposition parties have been speaking out forcefully against their inclusion in the government.


Prime Minister-Designate Netanyahu has responded that he and his Likud party will be firmly in charge, and that he did not support these controversial positions during his previous tenures as prime minister nor will he do so now. He has specifically expressed his opposition to any changes in the Law of Return and in LGBTQ rights.


The United States government’s response was articulated by Secretary of State Antony Blinken who said that the Administration will judge the new Israeli government “on its actions, not on personalities.


We should respect Israel’s democratic process, which allows all Israelis a voice and vote in forming their government. Our commitment to Israel transcends any one government, any one point in time, and any particular policy or statement. The Jewish Federation will always make clear how proposed policies will affect the Jewish community of North America and we will continue to advocate for policies that make Israel welcoming, inclusive and pluralistic.


Several areas of concern have emerged regarding policies that the new government may consider. These include:


The Law of Return: Some parties in the emerging coalition support a change in this law that gives every Jew the right to immigrate to Israel. The proposed changes would see the removal of a clause that currently extends that right to make aliyah to any person with at least one Jewish grandparent. As noted, Netanyahu and the Likud have said they are opposed to such changes. See more here. For an understanding of an argument by supporters for such a change please see more here


Religion and State: The new coalition includes parties, especially Shas and United Torah Judaism, who advocate for more restrictive policies impacting both religious life (such as conversion and prayer at the Kotel) and the relationship between religion and the broader public sphere (such as public transportation on Shabbat and kosher certification). Some of the reforms in these areas implemented by the outgoing government could be rolled back, together with further attempts to alter the status quo. 


Curtailing minority rights: This could include policies that harm the LGBTQ+ community, impact shared society (between Jewish and Arab populations), infringe on women’s rights, and more. Despite Netanyahu’s reassurances that he will not allow such changes to occur, many remain concerned given the power of some of the coalition partners, as well as the statements and comments they continue to make.


Changes to Israel’s judicial system: One such possibility could be the passing of what is known as “The Override Clause.” This would give the Knesset the power to overturn a decision of the Supreme Court when the Court has ruled that a particular Knesset Law goes against Israel’s semi-constitutional Basic Laws. See more here and here.


The Jewish Federation system has worked with every Israeli government to strengthen our relationship with the Jewish State building on our shared values and ideals. It remains our priority to strengthen these shared values and speak out against policies or actions that threaten to undermine them. Our commitment to strengthening the ties between Israel and North American Jewry is an eternal one, and the bonds that unite our two communities are unbreakable.


Shabbat shalom, stay safe, enjoy the remainder of Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and Happy Kwanzaa to those who celebrate.



PS -- The Jewish Federation office will be closed on Monday.


Add Comment