Although there has never been much sympathy for Israel’s ultra-Orthodox community in any part of the country’s secular society, suddenly this has changed.
As the prospects improve for a Netanyahu-Lapid-Bennett (or Likud-Yesh Atid-Habayit Hayehudi) coalition whose first project will making military service compulsory for the Haredi youth that has until now been exempt from it, indignant cries are being raised on the Israeli left.
Such a coalition, it is proclaimed, will constitute an unholy alliance; better pure religious extremists like the ultra-Orthodox than nationalistically religious ones like the settlers who dominate Habayit Hayehudi; Israel needs peace talks with the Palestinians, not more soldiers to prolong the occupation of Palestinian territory.
Where, asks the left, are the Labor Party and Shelly Yachimovich? Why don’t they consent to the coalition with Labor and the Haredim that Benjamin Netanyahu would like to form in order to keep Habayit Hayehudi out of his government?
Yet even if one grants that peace with the Palestinians is Israel’s most urgent task, this argument is misguided.
Of all Israel’s problems, three alone imperil its existence. These are the problem of the West Bank Palestinians, the problem of the country’s Arab citizens, and the problem of its Haredim. The first problem involves a population that Israel cannot absorb without destroying itself; the second and third, populations it must absorb to avoid destroying itself. Solving all three problems is critical, although in terms of the dangers they pose if not solved, that of the West Bank is the greatest, followed by that of Israeli Arabs. That of the Haredim comes third.
In terms of solvability, however, the order of the problems is unfortunately reversed.
The West Bank-Palestinian problem is the least soluble; right now, in fact, it can’t be solved at all, because the sides to the dispute are too far apart.
Next hardest is the Israeli Arab problem; the solutions for it exist but not the political will to carry them out.
Easiest is the problem of the Haredim. Here, too, the solutions are known – and as a result of January’s elections, the political constellation that can implement them does exist for the first time in Israel’s history.