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Feb 23, 2012

Excluding the Ultra-Orthodox From the Zionist State

MK Einat Wilf has made a proposal as to what Israeli society needs to do to move forward peacefully.

From the JPost:
MK Einat Wilf, who chairs the Independence faction, said that she has been thinking a lot lately about whether there can be solidarity between Zionists and non- Zionist in Israel – namely mainstream Israeli society with Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

To have a generous welfare state, she said, “You need a high level of trust among the citizens themselves and the citizens and the government.

That level of trust must be developed in the formative stages of society.”

With hindsight, Wilf came to the conclusion that when Israel was formulating its policy of social justice, it didn’t ask the right questions. “The social justice mechanism was created by Zionists for Zionists to serve the solidarity of Zionists who were engaged in the insane effort to establish a homeland for the Jewish people in this region,” she said.

Two groups were excluded from the Zionist enterprise, Wilf said. One was the Arabs who regarded Zionism as a threat, and the other was the ultra-Orthodox who viewed Zionism as heresy.

However, the solidarity mechanism was extended to the Arabs and ultra-Orthodox on the basis that welfare would breed solidarity rather than that solidarity would breed welfare.

This was not a successful means of creating trust, said Wilf. “The Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox still have an ambivalent attitude to the state and say that it’s all right to take but not to give.”

Wilf suggested that the time had come to bid each other farewell and to allow the Arabs and the ultra-Orthodox to lead their own lives without interference but also without the support of the state.

“That means we won’t have a socialist or a capitalist system, but a Zionist system.”

More significantly, it means that Arabs and ultra-Orthodox who don’t serve in the army or in community services will not receive free education, National Insurance or child allotments. Members of those communities who do serve will receive the same benefits as mainstream Israel.

“It may not be the most politically correct thing to do, but it will be the right and most sustainable thing to do if we are to go forward,” Wilf said.
I don't know if this proposal would work or not, if implemented. I do wonder how it would be implemented - members of the ultra-orthodox or arab communities who do serve and therefore would receive benefits - how would they get them? Would they get their free (or nearly free) education even though they send their kids to ultra-orthodox or arab schools that don't qualify for State allocations based on the new system? Would parents pay and then get reimbursed?

And would it work the same in the opposite direction? Would ultra-leftists who refuse to serve in the army also lose those allocations? Would "Tel Avivis" who find ways out of the army also lose their benefits?

Obviously they would have to create the system that knows how to differentiate and understand why someone did not serve in the army. If I did not serve because I made aliyah at an age at which they weren't interested in training me - do I lose my rights and benefits? Will they recognize that even if I live in an ultra-orthodox community or would they assume I don't qualify for ultra-orthodox reasons? If someone did not serve because he was disqualified for health reasons, or for whatever other reason the army exempts people - would they lose their benefits or would they get them despite not serving?

And let's say all this works out and they get a system in place that deals efficiently with all the various issues and conflicts that crop up. What happens then with the Arab and Ultra-Orthodox communities? Would they be self autonomous? Would we have three prime ministers and governments in Israel - one for the Zionists, one for the Ultra-Orthodox dealing with their issues and providing their services, and one for the Arab community dealing with their issues and providing their services? If they are being excluded from the Zionist State, they need to have some governing structure of their own - will we have three states for three people? And then if we ever make peace with the Palestinians will that become four states for four people, or five states for five people (including Hamas)? Will the Zionist State be able to give land in exchange for peace if that land is lived on by people from the Ultra-Orthodox or Arab states?


  1. Interesting idea, but the questions you raise are good questions and would probably make it unworkable.

    I would propose an alternative: Enable people to opt-out of full citizenship - which means no army service, but no right to vote, and (possibly) reduced benefits. Eliminating benefits is not really fair, because these groups do pay taxes. But if you don't want the responsibility to servce, you simply won't have a say in how the country is run. This would not effect people who have a legitimate army deferment, such as olim and people with medical problems.

    As for the schools, they should just stop fooling around and enforce the rule that if the core curriculem is not taught, no government funding, period, no exceptions whatsoever.

  2. The solution is simple: end the general draft create a professional volunteer army.

    Its more efficient and it will get get people in the general work force at earlier stages of their lives.

    Result: everyones happy!

  3. Is she going to take responsibility for all the resultant crime and social problems? Is she going to ensure that it stays contained in these economically deprived sectors? Since she can't, won't the Israeli government have to interfere in the affairs of these autonomous communities?

  4. Haredi politicians would fight this tooth and nail. Because we all know which direction the money flows. Even Eli Yishai admitted it when he explained why he opposes splitting Beit Shemesh - the haredim do not have the tax base.


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