Having another election campaign is unfortunate. This was not anyone’s preferred option.
But now, new elections are set for September, I know I will vote for the Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Lieberman. It is important to have a strong, national, secular voice in the Knesset. Strong on security, strong nationally and strong politically.
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A voice that will be strong socially with compassion for the elderly, and strong as a counter point to ultra-Orthodox parties.
Not in order to eliminate them. On the contrary, in order to bring them back to the national discourse, now that they are growing in size and political influence but are being side-tracked by their extreme wing to their own detriment.
Most of us respect our faith but not at the expense of our liberal society, free from religious coercion. The excessive demands of ultra-Orthodox politicians, pressured by the extremists, may yield short term gains, but impede their efforts to become fully assimilated in Israel’s modern society.
The long-accepted belief that there is no alternative to succumbing to the Orthodox demands, is changing. The party’s coercions have already and will continue to backfire, turning the non-Orthodox voters against the ultra-Orthodox community.
How should a father, mourning his son, who was killed in service of the country, feel about politicians that will go to any lengths to prevent their constituents from taking part in the defense of the country?
Liberman stood up to the ultra-Orthodox parities and must be commended. He stood up against the changes to the conscription bill, which would have watered down an already mild attempt to make these young men share the load in Israeli society. He had also pushed back on other legislation that would have changed how conversions are done and how the Sabbath is observed in public.
If in the next election campaign Liberman emerges stronger and becomes the representative of a rightwing, national secular electorate, which is respectful of the faith, but does not bow down to the ultra-Orthodox. It may be seen as a new and better direction for the country.
Elections should not have been forced on us. Liberman’s clear stand was known in advance.
His commitment to his voters was paramount, and if negotiators had understood that, they would have pressured their ultra-Orthodox partners and prevented the crisis.
But maybe this is the opportunity for the majority in Israeli society to draw the line and say “No more.”
Shai Bazak is a former media advisor to Benjamin Netanyahu and former Israeli consul general to New England