Wednesday, February 09, 2005

The State of the Union

I guess I can't really start without a political post. So here goes:

I live in Efrat. I don't know where that puts me on the political map, but there are people here both on the right and left. I see what a lot of them write about the political situation, and my main reaction is that things are more complex than they tend to say.

Here are some common comments:

It is immoral for the State to move people out of their homes. I don't think so. Lets say the government decided that for security or national reasons it was important to move 100,000 people from Gush Dan to the Negev or the Galil or even to Gush Katif. While it might be difficult for the people being relocated, and they should be compensated, I don't feel it's immoral.

It is never acceptable to give up land. Here too I disagree. In a war situation, there is sometimes a need to give up land to save lives. In the War of Independence, we gave up Gush Etzion and even the Old City of Jerusalem. We could have kept on fighting until the last man. But it was reasonable to stop fighting at some point. Now you can argue that the circumstances are different now than they were in 1948, and that by giving up land we're actually risking more lives instead of saving them, but the principle of giving up land has its validity.

The country is not being run in a democratic manner. While many people in the country aren't happy with the way that Sharon, Olmert, Mofaz et al are running the country, I think it's going too far to say that dissatisfaction = no democracy. In most countries many of the people aren't happy with the people in power. Even Sharon's rejection of the Likud referendum, and the firing of the opposing ministers isn't non-democratic. Because, bottom-line, the Likud party or the Knesset as a whole could simply topple the government. It wouldn't even be that hard. But they're not interested in doing so - for personal or political reasons. If they couldn't, then it wouldn't be a democracy. But they can. Why don't they - ask them!

We can't rely on this non-Torah run State. This one bothers me a lot, because it shows tremendous lack of gratitude. The fact is, that the achievements of the past 100 years of Zionism were due to the hard work of nonreligious Jews! The diplomatic and settlement activity before the State, the hard won wars, even the political parentage of the settlement movement. We didn't have any trouble saying that all those things were good. But now that they disagree with us - their lack of religious observance disqualifies them from leadership?

Sharon's leadership style is improper. This is connected to the democracy issue, but there's another point here. Sharon is a bulldozer. He continues to push ahead with his plan, no matter what his own party or anyone else says. That does indicate stubbornness, and is frustrating for his opponents. But what if it was the other way around? What if he was to the right of his party? (Remember David Levy with Bibi?) And what if despite that he continued to hold to his - our - positions? Would we be crying about his leadership or saying that this is the way to lead?

Relying on a diplomatic process is against Jewish values. I don't think this is true historically. There has always been a triangle of effort in the international realm - spirituality/prayer, military action, and diplomacy. We see this in midrashim going back to Yakov's encounter with Esav. But it has always continued that way. Whenever the leadership has adopted only one, the result was tragedy. Only prayer - think of how many lives might have been saved in the Holocaust. Only diplomacy - the failure of Oslo. And only military - well, there are plenty of examples in the Tanach where that has failed. All three options are valid and have to be used wisely.

We can't rely on any Arabs. This one just seems silly. What about the SLA? What about the numerous Arabs in the territories who help us find the terrorists and eliminate them? And what about the future?

The Arabs will never change. I think if you asked 25 years ago if the Soviet Union would fall, no one would have believed you. And who would believe that Germany would so quickly abandon its Nazi past? And Vatican II? The true face of history is that sometimes changes come quickly. Who knows what will happen next? Often I'm glad that God leads our path of redemption, because if it was entirely up to us - our pessimism would never let us get out the door.

So where does this leave us? Does all this mean that the hitnatkut/disengagement is the right choice? I don't think so. But I think that modesty demands that we realize that there might be another side. I think the main argument against it is that it will encourage terror, in the same way that a quick withdrawal from Iraq by the US would. Does Arafat's death change things? I don't know. Are there other geopolitical factors at play? Perhaps.

And here's the biggest problem. The one person who really knows, and who can really explain it, Ariel Sharon - isn't talking. Maybe he has a reason to keep quiet. But I think it's much to risky.

I think that the biggest advantage of a referendum would be that it would force the proponents of the plan to explain themselves. Elections wouldn't do that - the campaign would be about people, parties, not the plan itself. But a referendum would finally allow us all to know what the real reason is. And my suspicion is that is exactly why Sharon is so strongly against it.

There's much more to say about this, but I'll leave it here for now, and maybe it will continue in the comments.