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A Necessary Crisis by Aaron Hecht


Demonstrations against Judicial Reforms in Jerusalem, 24 July 2023, (Wikimedia Commons)

Sometimes, you have to hit rock bottom for your own good, and Israel is currently in the midst of this regrettable but probably necessary process.

A recent op-ed in the Jerusalem Post newspaper entitled "Israel finally has a pure right-wing government, and it's a complete disaster."

If you don't want to read that op-ed, the gist of it is that for years, supporters of Benjamin Netanyahu lamented the fact that he was unable to push through the Right's main agenda items because his party, the Likud, didn't have enough votes in the Knesset. So Bibi had to make compromises in order to bring Centrist parties into his coalition and they prevented him from really enacting the laws and policies that his supporters really wanted.

However, this current governing coalition is composed of only Right-wing parties. In fact, the Likud is the most Centrist of the parties in the current coalition. So Bibi's supporters should be ecstatic at his new-found ability to govern from the Right, instead of the Center, as they've always wanted him to.

But they're not ecstatic. 

In fact, more and more Likud supporters are openly expressing their deep dissatisfaction with the situation amidst a growing realization that those Centrist parties weren't so bad after all. The sophomoric behavior of Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and the even more ridiculous (and occasionally evil) behavior of National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir has made many people, even some people who voted for their parties in the last election, wonder if it might not be time for Bibi to lose those guys and form a coalition government with the National Unity party led by former IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz.

Of course, there are those who will howl that Gantz is a "Leftist" and "the people voted for a Right-Wing government" but one would hope that the sane among us have had enough of that dishonest hyperbole and will be ready to take a more pragmatic path forward.

Because, in my humble opinion, this disastrous situation is something Israel had to get out of its system. A "pure" Right-Wing government with a strong, highly visible presence of loony-toony Right-wing figures like Smotrich and Ben Gvir had to be tried so everyone could see what a bad idea it was. It's kind of like how some kids need to be allowed to pull a pot of boiling water off the stove and onto their heads because that's the only way they'll learn not to pull pots of boiling water off the stove onto their heads.

Israel's Believer community and the Christian Zionist organizations who work in this country are also in the midst of our own respective crises amidst the wider societal crisis.

Israel's Believer community has come under tremendous pressure in the last 8 months since this governing coalition came into power. There have been several incidents of vandalism of property and a few violent attacks against people at public events. There have even been some government actions that were very unfriendly towards Christians. This has all been reported in bother secular media and in the news reports of Believer organizations.

It has also led to criticism of Israel by the usual suspects like the World Council of Churches but also from American Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League.

It remains to be seen if the Netanyahu-led government will do anything to confront the rising tide of anti-Christian violence in Israel. Candidly, I don't think there's any particular reason to think Bibi will move on this issue. He's got so many other things to deal with and this is something that could cause his coalition to crack up, which would mean new elections that he'd probably lose. He knows he's lost the votes of many of his traditional supporters in the last several months. There's even a hashtag #bibilostmyvote which was trending high on Israeli internet usage for a while.

On that subject, I've been around long enough to observe a trend whereby Israeli Believers tended to vote Likud in years past but have gradually moved away from support for Netanyahu because of his close cooperation with ideological movements in Israel that are fiercely opposed to the Gospel. Sadly, we don't have a lot of other good options, and I won't try to advise anyone on who should get our votes instead of Likud. But clearly, the strategy of putting all our eggs in the Bibi basket has failed to produce the results so many hoped it would, and the sooner people get their heads around that the better.

The Christian Zionist organizations (which are made up of people who mostly can't vote for or against Netanyahu) find themselves being "squeezed out of existence" as one CZ leader put it by the restrictive policies regarding visas that the Interior Ministry began enacting about three years ago. They have, presumably, tried to get some help from their friend in the Prime Minister's Office. Indeed, direct, public appeals have been made to Netanyahu to step in and do something about the situation.

As I'm writing this, there has not been any statement on this issue from the Prime Minister.

To be fair, none of the other "friends" these CZ organizations have forged such close ties with over the decades have spoken up on their behalf either. The Modern Orthodox/National Religious rabbis who have gladly accepted tens of millions of dollars worth of assistance from these organizations over the years don't seem to be ready to say anything publicly about the visa issue, or any of the other problems CZ groups are facing.

I've been at many ceremonies when some of these rabbis spoke about the assistance they were getting from CZ groups and the phrase "when you're in trouble, you find out who your real friends are" often got repeated during those speeches.

Oh, the irony!

But, once again, we're back to the title of this blog.

This crisis in Israel's political life was going to come sooner or later and I think it was even necessary. Israel is both an ancient country and a young country. There's still a lot that the Israelis are figuring out about how to make a modern democracy work and this process will include many difficult lessons, just like the process of growing up usually includes a lot of difficult lessons for an individual.

The same is true of the crisis Israel's Christian Zionists are facing. The massive amount of "unconditional love and support" that CZs have been giving the National Religious/Modern Orthodox movement in general and Bibi Netanyahu in particular for decades now was also quite entirely "unrequited". 

That must be a very bitter pill to swallow.

But, again, this crisis was and is necessary. To mix a couple of my favorite metaphors, it's time for the Christian Zionist movement to stop drinking their own Kool-Aid, wake up, and smell the napalm.

Politicians, like nations, don't have permanent "friends" they have long-term "interests" and most of the time the people they call their "friends" are really just people they're using to advance those "interests."

I doubt I'm saying anything that the CZ leadership doesn't already know.

So stop waiting for your faux "friends" to save the day, because they won't. They're not on your side and they never have been. They're on their own side, and they only pretend to be your "friends" because you're useful to them. If they're not standing with you now, when you need help, it's probably because they don't think they need you so much anymore so they don't see any advantage in helping you out. Or maybe they think that you'll keep on supporting them no matter what they do or don't do, so why should they stick their necks out for you?

Ironically enough, I think they're very wrong. The next election is coming sooner or later and when it does, these guys are going to lose big and end up banished to the political wilderness for a VERY long time. Then you'll see them running to the Christian Zionists and begging you to help them out for the sake of their oft-repeated rhetoric about the "true friendship" you and they share.

I respectfully suggest that you shouldn't fall for this routine again.

Instead, try looking for some new friends, some REAL friends, like the Israeli Believers who are your NATURAL allies and friends in this country, people who are in this WITH YOU. If you'd been doing that all along, instead of bending over backward for decades to please these faux "friends" in the Modern Orthodox/National Religious camp, we'd all be in much better shape.

But, better late than never.

Like I said at the beginning, sometimes one must hit rock bottom for their own good. 

Sometimes the shock of hitting rock bottom is the only thing that will be sufficient to allow one to shake off all the delusions and misperceptions and see things as they truly are. That allows the necessary conclusions to be drawn, the necessary lessons to be learned, and the necessary steps to be taken in order to begin moving forward again.

The nation of Israel, the Believer community in Israel, and the Christian Zionist movement are all having such a moment right now, and despite all the temporary problems it's causing, I thank God for it.

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