By Meir Indor
After Avi Parchan and I had set up the Libi Fund, I succeeded in convincing then-Chief-of-Staff Raphael “Raful” Eitan to approve a project that would encourage a more even sharing of the burden of military service by different sectors of Israeli society.
For the most part, the program brought young people from the Diaspora to participate in guarding the Israeli home front. The pilot began in 1981, with a few dozen volunteers who were already in the country to attend yeshiva or university receiving basic riflery training. We dubbed the scheme Shomer Yisrael, “Guardian of Israel.” After a successful start and a chance meeting with Raful in Beirut during the first ceasefire of the First Lebanon War, I received the go-ahead to take it further.
All told, the project existed for twelve years. The best national-religious officers volunteered to train the recruits. Each year there were three classes of trainees: one during the summer, one during Pesach break, and one at Sukkot time. Six thousand people received military training and were then sent to perform guard duty at border communities or behind-the-lines installations, then released, promising to report for duty in case of emergency.
Here’s the rub: the program included Israeli students from Haredi yeshivot, who attended training during academic breaks in ever-increasing numbers. This could have been the beginning of a solution to the problem of fairly distributing military service across sectors.
Then MK Yossi Sarid mounted an attack on me, claiming that I was training private militias. The IDF Military Police, civilian Police, and Israel Security Agency all performed investigations of what I was doing. The Military Police cut it out quickly enough. Yaakov Peri of the ISA sent an investigator to me with a request—which I refused—to sign off on a confidentiality agreement. And the Israel Police also investigated. No malfeasance was discovered.
But in 1992, after Rabin came to power, the army closed the project. Yossi Sarid had won. Raful was no longer in a position where he could defend the program.
I’m sorry to ruin the party over reaching a fair distribution of military service. Really. It’s just a matter of age: the white hairs that appear over time with the mounting disappointments. My personal experience, for one. Also the fact that today the army chooses not to form another all-Haredi battalion, despite the demand for more capacity to absorb Haredim. Taken together, the evidence shows clearly that all the talk about a fair distribution of military service is really just a political tactic on the part of the left to break its tie with the right.
The issue always crops up when a Haredi-rightist coalition is in power, never when the left and the Haredim have joined forces. So the idea that Yesh Atid and the Jewish Home are really going to tackle the issue together doesn’t seem to add up. Yesh Atid is a leftist party. The Jewish Home is a rightist party. The fundamental question is, is it possible for right and left to reach a viable modus vivendi? The answer is no. At least over the long term. It doesn’t even work outside the Knesset.
Ask Rabbi Yaakov Medan. The Israel Democracy Institute put him in touch with Professor Ruth Gabison to put together a series of documents that would detail consensuses on issues of importance to Israeli society, with each side making concessions to the other in order to minimize tension and conflict.
They worked together for two years. And then came the expulsion from Gaza.
The IDI suddenly became mute. At the moment of truth, given an opportunity to do damage to the settlement enterprise, the values of personal freedoms and democratic principles vanished. They let Sharon simply ignore the results of the referendum he himself had initiated, watched silently as ministers were fired for daring to oppose his plan, and made no attempt to interfere with a series of preventive detentions. They closed their ears to the violation of the personal freedoms and property rights of the Jewish residents of Gaza. Rabbi Medan still carries with him the scars of this great betrayal.
Yair Lapid, then a journalist, also was there. He explained to his readers that the “evacuation” was a good thing: true, it made no sense, but it was a good thing for Religious Zionism to suffer and learn a lesson.
Today, his party is squarely on the left. Despite the terrorism that has been and is still employed by the Palestinian Authority, Yesh Atid is in favor of continuing to retreat and continuing to transfer territory to the PA. Despite the abduction attempts in recent years (over forty, according to an Almagor study), Yaakov Peri has a problem with having Palestinians in jail. He and Carmi Gillon, his successor at the ISA, along with Jibril Rajoub, have begun preparing public opinion for the release of additional terrorists, either murderers or attempted murderers who almost succeeded.
The media will not forsake the Palestinian narrative. They won’t let Yair Lapid continue to waltz with Bennett for very long, unless Bennett undergoes a total transformation. And that isn’t happening.
Hollywood Not Impressed
Hostile cultural and political commentators recently received a boost from two anti-Israel films in their quest to convince the Israeli public of the need to retreat from Judea and Samaria. The Gatekeepers is the work of by filmmaker Dror Moreh, who is also known for a Yediot Acharonot interview with former ISA chief Yuval Diskin savaging Netanyahu. The second piece, Five Broken Cameras, is a Palestinian film produced by an Israeli with funding from the Ministry of Culture and Sport. Both went to Hollywood as candidates for an Oscar.
Terror victims wrote to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to protest the nominations. Neither film won, albeit not necessarily because of the letters. The Americans may just have understood that they were dealing with films that are long on politics and short on artistic merit.
Translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg