Yisrael Beiteinu party joins Government Coalition, giving up on religion & state
Politics casts shadow over encouraging legal progress & public opinion
Hiddush derives encouragement from developments on the fronts of public opinion and the legal arena, but on the political scene, the news is more bleak than encouraging when it comes to issues of religious freedom & equality.
Uri Regev 26/05/2016 12:07
Ignorance among Israelis about legal divorce alternatives, Hiddush survey conducted by Smith Institute
On the legal front there has been a significant step forward this week. The Supreme Court issued a show cause order in a long pending case brought by IRAC and the Reform movement, regarding the eligibility of Israeli non-Orthodox converts to receive citizenship as Jews under the Law of Return. We anticipated this step when we analyzed a recent landmark Supreme Court on conversion. Even though that ruling focused on private ultra-Orthodox conversion courts, the legal implications were clear - this ruling will be applied to non-Orthodox conversions as well. We now see the beginning of the next phase!
We derive encouragement also from the developments on the public opinion front. Hiddush polling shows a steady, consistent growth in public support for all aspects of religious freedom and equality, as we have repeatedly shared with our readers. (Next week we will be publishing the dramatic findings of a special poll conducted in honor of the upcoming Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Stay tuned! You will rejoice in the findings!)
On the political scene, the news is more bleak than encouraging when it comes to issues of religious freedom & equality.
We followed with dismay that as the Yisrael Beiteinu party joined the Government Coalition this week, and its leader Avigdor Liberman received the prize appointment of Defense Minister, they did not hesitate to discard their recent demands for marriage freedom, leniency in conversion, and even the issue of drafting yeshiva students to the IDF. The latter is now directly under Minister Liberman's purview. Turning his back to the needs and interests of his main constituency, the Olim from the FSU, he has committed to abide by the 2015 coalition agreements, which grant the Haredi parties veto power over any legislation on religious matters, as well as far reaching concessions in funding, education, the draft, and much more.
Israel's opposition parties are all eyeing the prospects of Haredi political support, and in their dreams and hopes to displace Netanyahu, they are willing to pay the price up front by taking a "vow of silence" on the egregious developments and inequities in the arena of religion and state.
As we have pointed out before, Israel's opposition parties are all eyeing the prospects of Haredi political support, and in their dreams and hopes to displace Netanyahu, they are willing to pay the price up front by taking a "vow of silence" on the egregious developments and inequities in the arena of religion and state.
Progress on the legal front often results with fierce backlash, particularly from Haredi politicians who are now pushing forward legislation that would curtail the powers of the Supreme Court, undo certain rulings, and generally aims to intimidate and muzzle the Court. Fortunately, there are forces within the government coalition that strongly oppose such attempts at limiting the Court's authority, such as the Kulanu party's leader Finance Minister Kahlon. Hopefully, despite the increasing pressure from ultra-Orthodox circles and some on the political right who wish to see the Supreme Court restrained, the delicate balancing act between the Coalition's machinations and Kulanu's strong stance will prevent such dangerous legislative initiatives.
All of this further highlights the critical importance of Hiddush's work in monitoring, analyzing and speaking truth to power in order to increase public awareness and public pressure for change. This role is clearly underscored by the most recent Hiddush poll, revealing the extent of public ignorance on key issues, even as conceptual public support for religious freedom and equality is high. Without a better understanding of the extent to which the current reality impacts the dignity and rights of so many Israeli citizens, victimizes women, and affects world Jewry, we will continue to face obstacles in translating abstract public support into impactful public pressure and mobilization. The poll again highlights the importance of the Israel-Diaspora partnership, welcomed by the majority of Israel Jews, in order to reach the necessary critical mass of constructive pressure.
What remains to be seen is to what extent the American Jewish community and world Jewish leadership are willing to take a stand and help bring about the necessary change.