Extracts from a Q & A between JTA (Jewish Telegraph Agency)
and the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI)
Compiled by Pia Horan-Gross, Author
In order for outsiders to understand the present political situation in Israel better, I have compiled an extract from the above Q & A held before last year’s elections, still relevant today, as it is now known that Israel’s present parliament, led by ”Netanyahu’s Government, (is) the Most Right-wing in Israel’s History” (Haaretz, Israel News, Dec 28, 2022).
IDI: “About 85% of Israeli Arabs – who comprise 20% of Israel’s population (highlights mine) – want their elected Knesset representatives to be part of a coalition government. This is a break from the past, when being part of a Zionist coalition was perceived as illegitimate. Now it’s different. Israeli Arabs increasingly want to be part of the state, and they understand this is their fate, future and fortune. Their representatives are responding accordingly.
JTA: Over the last 20 years there’s been a dramatic diminishing of the Israeli left. Is that going to continue?
IDI: The long-term trend is a decline in the share of Israelis that self-identify as left-wing, now about 15% of Israelis. There’s been a dramatic increase in the last 20 years of those who define themselves as center, now 25-30%. And about 55% define themselves as right wing, roughly divided into one-third center-right, one-third right wing and one-third far right. Plus there’s the Arab minority.
Within the right-wing camp, about half are religious. The ultra-Orthodox, who comprise about 11% of Israel’s population, is almost 100% right wing and mostly far-right. There’s quite a significant correlation between level of religiosity and political behavior and identification.
The political changes over the last 20 years largely have to do with demography (natural growth of the Israeli right) and the second intifada. The second intifada, and to some extent the perception of the outcome of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, led to the demise of the left and rise of the center.
Meanwhile, the whole definition of what it means to be right, left and center is undergoing a radical transformation due to the unique Netanyahu situation. For example, how do you count Saar’s voters (the Islamist element of the Joint List; Raam)? They are right wing, but right wingers who will never go with Netanyahu. And on questions of religion and state, the views of those voters overlap with the liberal views of those in the center-left. The same goes for Liberman: a staunch right-winger who represents the secular right and has much criticism for Netanyahu’s capitulation to ultra-Orthodox demands.
JTA: Does continued Netanyahu rule threaten the relationship between Israel and American Jews?
IDI: …a coalition with the far right and the ultra-Orthodox parties… has implications for Israel-Diaspora relations because the ultra-Orthodox parties will call the shots on domestic affairs and on religion and state, and their vulgar, aggressive, repulsive approach toward the non-Orthodox streams might unfortunately become formal Israeli policy. And Netanyahu’s power to restrain the ultra-Orthodox is virtually nonexistent. If such a coalition emerges, it won’t be good news for Israel-Diaspora relations.
But then again the Jewish people are strong. Of the more than 15 million Jews worldwide, a majority believe in liberal democratic values.”
(Source: Jewish Telegraph Agency (JTA), March 2021)
My Own Assessment of the Above:
The fact that Netanyahu won the presidency in 2022 and that he has formed an alliance with the far-right, could spell further, tacitly sanctioned persecution for the Israeli Messianic congregations, as seen in the past*. As the present shaky Israeli legal system appears to have been further weakened since the latest elections, legal protection for these vulnerable people groups is brought further into question. As IDI warns about some of the orthodox right-wing members: “their vulgar, aggressive, repulsive approach toward the non-Orthodox streams might unfortunately become formal Israeli policy”.
From Personal Experience:
* In 20I2, I attended a Christian conference in Ariel (Samaria), where Israeli Messianic Jewish church leaders and a mixed group of worldwide Christians met to celebrate the biblical notion of “One New Man” (in Christ). There were strict security measures taken at the hotel where we met, mainly against possible Arab Muslim terrorist attacks.
What we heard at this conference shocked many to the core and was an eye-opener of what our Messianic Jewish brethren continue to endure at the hands of orthodox Jewish extremists! One Messianic leader had a letter bomb delivered to his house, and unfortunately, his son happened to open the letter and was seriously injured. Another had his church overrun by Jewish orthodox extremists during a baptismal service, who grabbed the senior minister and threw him into the baptismal font. Many more such acts of violence and harassment were recounted.
I believe with the Israeli extreme right having presently gained prominence in parliament and in the running of the country, such incidences may become more prevalent.
A Call for Prayer!
Therefore, our Jewish Messianic brethren need our renewed support, both in prayer and in whatever the Lord directs us!