Several prominent American Zionists, including long-time supporters of Israel, are so outraged at the Israeli government’s recent decision regarding the Western Wall and non-orthodox conversion that they are urging American Jews to reduce or even eliminate their support for Israel. According to an article by Elliott Abrams in Mosaic, Ike Fisher (a prominent member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee board) threatened to “suspend” all further financial support for Israel. Daniel Gordis, a leading voice for Conservative Judaism, urged American Jews to cancel their El Al tickets and fly Delta or United. He also proposed “withholding donations to Israeli hospitals, so that ‘They start running out of money’ and ‘begin to falter.'”
This sort of emotional response is reminiscent of the temper tantrum outgoing President Barak Obama engaged in when he refused to veto the UN’s recent anti-Israel resolution.
I strongly disagree both with the Israeli government’s capitulation to the minority of ultra-Orthodox Jews, who wield far too much influence in Israeli politics, and with the proposals to cut back on support for Israel by some of my fellow critics of the Israeli government’s recent decisions with regard to religion.
I strongly support greater separation between religion and state in Israel, as Theodor Herzl outlined in his plan for the nation-state of the Jewish People in Der Judenstaat 120 years ago: “We shall . . . prevent any theocratic tendencies from coming to the fore on the part of our priesthood. We shall keep our priests [by which is meant Rabbis] within the confines of their temples.”
It was David Ben Gurion, Israel’s founding prime minister, who made the deal with the Orthodox Rabbinate that violated Herzl’s mandate and knocked down the wall of separation between religion and state. He allocated to the Chief Rabbinate authority over many secular matters, such as marriage, divorce and child custody. He also laid the groundwork for the creation of religious parties that have been a necessary part of most Israeli coalitions for many years.
So, do not blame current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for the recent capitulation. His government’s survival depends on his unholy alliance with allegedly holy parties that threaten to leave the coalition and bring down his government unless he capitulated. The alternative to a Netanyahu government might well be far to the right of the current government, both on religious matters and on…