Now that Israeli President Shimon Peres has tapped Benjamin Netanyahu to form the next government, Jewish liberals are going to have to start asking themselves some tough questions.
In the 10 days since the election, two parallel — and contradictory — views have emerged side-by-side among doves. Especially in the United States, Jewish liberals have been speaking out against the idea of allowing Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beteinu into the government — and they’ll start making the same argument about National Union when they realize that one if its top members describes himself as a disciple and heir to Meir Kahane.
Check out Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s Op-Ed in the Forward:
Much of the debate until now has focused on whether or not Lieberman can be accurately classified as a racist or a fascist. But this debate is largely beside the point. A far-right politician on the European model, he has risen to prominence at a time of uncertainty and fear by alleging that Israel faces a threat from within. Like other demagogues of this type, he has been sly in his rhetoric so that allegations of racism cannot be established with certainty.
But over in Israel, plenty of those on the left and center-left have been arguing that the best thing for Kadima and Labor to do would be to stay out of any government led by Netanyahu, using their time in opposition to gain strength and build support for a robust peace process. Livni said as much to her followers on Thursday:
"Today, the foundations of a right-wing extremist government under Netanyahu were set," Livni wrote in a cellular phone text message sent to some 80,000 Kadima members Thursday. "The path of such a government is not our own and we have nothing to look for there. You didn’t vote for us in order to provide a kosher certificate for a right-wing government, and we need to provide an alternative of hope from the opposition."
So which is it? Either you think Tzipi Livni and/or Ehud Barak should join a Bibi-led government, even at the risk of ending up as cover for Netanyahu to sit on his hands diplomatically, or you force Bibi to join forces with the likes of Yisrael Beteinu and National Union, despite concerns over an unabashedly nationalist government’s approach to the peace process and the rights of Israeli Arabs.
Oh, and here’s another wrinkle… there’s some buzz out there suggesting that Lieberman would like a Likud-Kadima-Yisrael Beiteinu coalition that left out any religious parties, paving the way for civil marriage and other church-state reforms. So you could end up seeing an interesting debate between those who focus on Israeli Arab rights and those who are dedicated to ending the Orthodox monopoly over religion in Israel.