May 18, 2023


Israel's Internal Divisions Are its Mortal Enemy Now: The rightwing government's assaults on the judiciary will dissolve the glue uniting the country (AKIVA MALAMET, MAY 18, 2023, The UnPopulist)

As Abraham Lincoln pointed out quoting the Bible, a house divided against itself cannot stand. Israel, which recently celebrated its 75th anniversary, may be buckling from within. With the peace agreements that Israel recently signed with many of its former enemies in the region, the greatest threat to Israel's existence no longer comes from outside the country but from rising political divisions within. This was already the case before the new rightwing government proposed radical judicial reform. But if it goes forward, Israel will have a hard time balancing competing constituencies and values and could well come apart.

To outside observers, Israel has the appearance of social unity given the overwhelming domestic consensus that Israel should be a Jewish country. But that consensus obscures deep divisions and tribalism. There is of course the longstanding rift between Israel's Jewish and non-Jewish population (such Muslim Arab-Israelis but also Christians). But there are other fault lines too based on ethnicity, attitudes toward Judaism, and politics. Western Ashkenazi Jews, Eastern Sephardi/Mizrahi, and Ethiopian Jews are in tension with each other. Jews of color, whether of Middle Eastern or African origin, confront discrimination and have their own set of complaints. Less observant as well as Reform and other progressive Jews often bitterly resent the Orthodox, particularly ultra-Orthodox Haredim, because (unlike their Religious Zionist counterparts) they control Israeli religious institutions, are too dependent on public assistance, and won't serve in the military. Conversely, many Orthodox Jews dislike the cultural progressivism of the less observant. And then there are the intense divides between Israel's right, left, and center.

Posted by at May 18, 2023 2:34 PM