Winograd: Haaretz Supplies a Missing Piece

Submitted without comment. In today’s Haaretz. Avi Shavit is a well-respected Israeli commentator.

A government without God
By Ari Shavit

On July 12, 2006, the Olmert government decided to go to war without understanding it was deciding to go to war.

The decision that would cost 160 Israeli lives and deprive Israel of its deterrent ability was made without a proper discussion, without examining alternatives and without an understanding of the political significance and strategic ramifications.

Shockingly, Olmert’s ministers approved a proposal without knowing what it was at all. In doing so, they made the supreme leadership blunder. Theirs was an act of leadership negligence.

In the 10 months that have passed, Olmert, his court, and his courtiers have done everything they could to blur the severity of their failure. They have wrapped the reality of our lives in a thick fog of lies, half-truths and spins. The Winograd Committee lifted the fog yesterday. In businesslike and exact language, it presented the Israeli public with the bare truth. The emperor is naked, the committee stated. There is no captain at the helm.

If Ehud Olmert had integrity, he would have resigned last night. He would have packed his belongings, vacated the house on Balfour Street and returned to November 29th Street until renovation of the house on Cremieux Street is complete. But the prime minister doesn’t have integrity. He lacks the ability to bow his head before a democratic institution or a moral court. Even if the institution is an institution he appointed himself and the court is a court he invented.

For many years, Israelis sought a government without the religious. In Olmert’s government, they got a government without God. It is now clear that a government without God is also a government without talent. Without a moral compass, without a political agenda and without a grip on reality.

Starting this morning, the floor returns to the public. As long as the Winograd Committee sat behind closed doors, Israel’s citizens dozed. They allowed the committee to do its work while they went on with their daily lives. If that remains true in the coming days, Israel will continue to be run recklessly. Sooner or later it will run aground. However, if the Winograd report leads to a belated awakening from the national coma, it will be remembered as one of the most important official documents ever written. The document that saved Israel from a leadership that breached its duty.

[Thanks to Rabbi Ephraim Buchwald]

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26 Responses

  1. michoel halberstam says:

    are there any religious parties in this government?

  2. HILLEL says:



  3. Miriam Shear says:

    “In Olmert’s government, they got a government without God. It is now clear that a government without God is also a government without talent. Without a moral compass, without a political agenda and without a grip on reality.”

    This statement should really be the sum total of the Winograd Report. That statement is the beginning, the middle and the end. G-d abhors a vacuum – and a corrupt government has taken its place with all the attendant consequences.

    How do we convince the secular Israeli public to be more open and accepting of a Torah-run state? By being true Torah examples ourselves. When we show the heelonim that a Torah way of life is beautiful and meaningful; that it does not tolerate corruption, nepotism, and hooliganism; that the Torah way of life is one that tries to bring people together, not create divisions and hatred amongst them. The sincerely religious Jews are the ones who have the biggest onus of responsibility to light the way for ALL of our Jewish brethren. If we don’t, we will suffer and fall with them.

  4. Bob Miller says:

    For starters—and this can be done today—we can do a better job in acquainting chilonim with the good that the Orthodox are already doing and the clarity of the true world view. Yes, we have not achieved perfection yet, but we already offer the best alternative.

  5. Ploni says:

    The rabbis had their chance for 2,000 years. The secularists built a State.

  6. Ahron says:

    The secularists did build a state. They’re just unable to sustain it.

  7. Miriam Shear says:

    Ploni, your 2 statements make my point. As long as Eretz Yisrael was being run according to Torah, there was peace in the land and we were victorious over any enemy that dared to start up with us. It was only when THE ABANDONMENT OR ABSENCE of Torah took place that we lost our security. “Your princes are rebellious and companions of thieves; everyone loves bribes and runs after payments; ….” (Isaiah 23) Doesn’t this sound like our “leaders” today? It is easier to name those who have been indicted or convicted than those who have not. “Zion shall be redeemed through justice and her penitent through righteousness” (Isaiah 27)

    That, Ploni, is why both the rabbis and the secularists have failed. It is not a matter of who is running the country – but whether or not Torah is running the country. National security depends on whether or not Torah rules the land and the people.

  8. Dovdi Eliezrie says:

    This is a painful topic. Because we must ask in all honesty who facilitated the forced removal of thousands of Jews from their homes two summers ago if not the religious parties who supported Sharon’s government. And is not not Shas that stands today inside the government and other Charidie parties that stand ready to throw a life line to the present situation.
    Dovid Eliezrie

  9. Bob Miller says:

    The heavy lifting to familiarize the people as a whole with Judaism has to be done outside the party framework. This is something way above Israeli politics.

  10. Jonathan Rosenblum says:

    I used the Shavit quote as the final paragraph to a 2,000 word piece this week on the Winograd Commission in Yated. But I will confess that I have absolutely no idea what he meant. Does anyone else who has any familiarity with his writing think they do?

  11. SM says:

    If you read the post carefully, it is clear that the author is drawing a distinction between a government without God and a government without the religious. The current government contains the religious in the presence of Shas. What it lacks is God.

    In other words, the post is saying that what is happening in Israel is that everyone is pursuing power and influence without thought to morality – regardless of their proclaimed ethos or public stance.

    So, the people Hillel is talking about won’t run the state – which they do not accept. And this is not about persuading the Israeli public that the torah true can do it better than it is currently being done. The ‘torah true’ have been involved in Israeli politics for the last 30 years (at an absolute minimum – more if you are a Zionist) and are as implicated in the current mess as anyone else. More perhaps, having consistently traded principle for influence when their particular stance (unlike that of secular parties) is that they will NOT do so.

    The summer war was a product of ill-preparedness and a belief that the enemy would crumble, when it would not. For the first time Israel faces an enemy which relies on exactly the qualities which Israel exhibited in the past – a belief in God and a belief that the fight is for God or a promise made by God. Notwithstanding the belief of some here, the secularists did believe that – they may have sublimated it to a belief in the land and the people but underlying that was a concept of Jewish destiny, commanded by the Divine. Now, the concern is, no one believes it.

    To that extent I agree that Torah is the answer. Torah will restore belief and a sense of identity and purpose. But that does not mean (and I believe should not mean) that Torah has to rule in a secular sense. If Israel was not a democracy then Rabbis would have only two choices – to condone behaviour which transgresses Torah or to punish it and coerce people to obey. And, however great the educational effort, that will be the choice until Meschiach comes. I don’t want them doing that and I don’t believe they want to do it.

    If Israel IS a democracy then education via our behaviour is the only answer. And that project must be able to accomodate a view of Torah which is not ours – just as it did until perhaps 20 years ago. I am afraid that I do not believe the religious community is able to offer that today. We will continue to insist on a standard which most others cannot adhere to – and we will continue to keep pushing up the standard so that only an ‘elite’ can reach it. The secular will turn away. Israel will continue to suffer. And when it is all over (as I fear it will be) ‘we’ will blame ‘them’.

  12. SM says:

    I ought to make it clear that my post is not an answer to R Rosenblum’s question. It appears as it does because of the lapse of time between submitting a comment in the morning in the UK and it being approved in the morning in the USA! When I wrote my comment I had no idea that the question of meaning was an issue.

  13. Steve Brizel says:

    There is no doubt that all sectors of the Torah world ranging from the Charedim to the RZ/MO sectors should engage in some serious cheshbon hanefesh. Yes, the secular Israeli and American Jewish media can and will always be counted on for O bashing to sell newspapers but IMO, that should not be an obstacle for some serious cheshbon hanefesh in all sectors as to the dangers confronting us and how to work together on some common goals and present Torah as a way of life that us profound, deep , of the highest moral integrity and able to surmount any political, economical and cultural milieu.

  14. de la costa says:

    i dont think in fairness we can ask haredim to run a state al derech hateva. in their community there could be no army [ bittul torah], no foreign service [same, plus other sins], a full welfare budget would break the bank, since no money would be coming in etc. what would they do, ban chilonism and chilonim? or just use them as the chamor—the ‘shabbes goy’ of the medina – to be the working and fighting ‘friers’ , whose schools won’t be funded and whose way of life will be banned?… a lovely pipe dream; but i think we will have to wait for mashiach to come. the haredi community could have done a better job that Mizrachi as being a partner of government. but they decided to turn inward and be seen as an ‘enemy ‘ element. now that Mafdal has been disempowered, there is a vacuum, with no one looking for anything but Almighty Lucre….

  15. Bob Miller says:

    In fact we ought to wait for Mashiach to come and, in the meantime, remove our individual and collective roadblocks to his arrival. HaShem is always ready to shower us with good, if we don’t let our agendas get in the way.

  16. Binyamin says:

    I do not think that Shavit equates God with the Torah. When he speaks about God he refers to what we would call moral feelings.

    Of course moral feelings without God seem to have a pretty bad losing streak against power and pride (sometimes even moral feelings with God have failed), but I am not sure that the author is recognizing this.

  17. Baruch Horowitz says:

    “i dont think in fairness we can ask haredim to run a state al derech hateva.”

    If we accept the above statement as true, I find it difficult not to say that this would not be an inherent weakness in charedi philosophy. Instead, I would say that the Torah is meant to be lived in *today’s* time, not in Moshiach’s ; one explanation I’ve heard explaining the error of the Meraglim, was that that they didn’t want to leave the artificial spiritual existence of the Midbar.

    From what I have read, the Tzitz Eliezer wrote Hilchos Hamedinah, originally published in 1952, specifically dealing with issues affecting the Jewish state(there is an issue about its republication based on a pending din Torah, as per the Badatz). Rabbi Chaim Hirschenson(a RZ rav and poseik and member of the Agudas Harabonim) wrote Malki be’Kodesh in 1919 about a theoretical Jewish State functioning according to halacha.

    In theory, were the Jewish State to become more Torah-oriented, we need not abdicate it’s functioning to Moshiach’s times. Particularly, since an important element of insular policies instituted in the early days of the State, such as army deferrals, were at least partially relevant to building a wall against secularism, such walls would have to be adjusted (i.e., lowered) and policies re-balanced, in keeping with an increased Torah character of the State. Both the advent of Moshiach, as well as a more Torah-oriented State functioning, b’derech hateva, with an increased participation of charedim, are things to look forward to.

  18. Rabbi Zvi says:

    “If we accept the above statement as true, I find it difficult not to say that this would not be an inherent weakness in charedi philosophy. Instead, I would say that the Torah is meant to be lived in today’s time, not in Moshiach’s”

    As usual, Baruch Horowitz graces us with a very sensible outlook in a sensitive manner.

  19. cvmay says:

    There were infrequent and few instances that Eretz Yisroel was at peace with its enemies. This is a perfect time of the year to discuss the grandeur of learning of the talmidim of Rabi Akiva, and the Torah that saturated the land. Then along came the Romans while our kedoshim were still shteigging & learning, was there the ABANDONMENT & ABSENCE of Torah then?……rather Hashem is leading us to the redemption through a path that has twists & turns.

  20. Moshe Blum says:

    Rav Wolbe zt”l writes that the Charedim would have no problem running a State, and would have done a better job of getting along with the Arabs than the hubris-filled G-dless Chilonim.

    I’d rather have Aryeh Deri negotiating with the Arabs than any of the incompetents who are supposed to be running for PM, and Uri Lopoliansky is not a half bad mayor. He’s also infinitely more decent than any of the candidates for PM today.

    The claim of going to the army being Bittul Torah is nonsense. That isn’t the reason the Charedim don’t go to the army.

    Yes, the Labor Zionists made sure enough frum Jews got killed in Europe so that they could have their State-run apparatus to rid the Jews of their Jewish identity. And they were successful with many of them. So, now what? Just because these Reshaim put together an evil regime (which evolved into a slick Rasha Prime Minister sending Russian Goyim to bash heads in Amona, and a G-dless hubris which met defeat by the hands of a bunch of guerilla terrorist fundamentalists) now it becomes the responsibility of the Charedim to pick up the pieces of their failed experiment which was doomed from the start? HaShem had mercy and prevented the Arabs from perpetrating another Holocaust – and that means HaShem is thrilled with a secular Medinah? Who says?

    Sometimes, yeah, you have to recognize painful realities, and you have to cut your losses and start from scratch. And it may take Moshiach to get that process started.

  21. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Moshe Blum: Yes, the Labor Zionists made sure enough frum Jews got killed in Europe

    Ori: Are you sure it wasn’t the Nazis? You can say that the secular Labor Zionists contributed by angering Hashem with their Kfira, but you can’t say they did it on purpose so G-d will punish the frum Jews in Europe. The Labor Zionists did not have a prophet that will tell them what divine punishment will be metted for actions against a G-d in which they did not believe.

    Moshe Blum: now it becomes the responsibility of the Charedim to pick up the pieces of their failed experiment which was doomed from the start?

    Ori: Do you think Charedim in Eretz Israel will fare better under an Arab government? Or that a large population of Charedim, mostly without marketable skills, will be accepted into any other western country?

  22. Moshe Blum says:

    Ori, I’m not talking about Divine retribution. I’m talking about actual hindrance of rescue efforts, and purposely leaving the frum Jews of Europe to their fate.

    I don’t know how Jews would have fared under the likes of a King Hassan of Jordan had there not been such a backdrop of hatred between Palestinians and Jews. Do you?

    I don’t know how a large Charedi population, mostly without marketable skills, would have been accepted in a Western country. How are the people in Kiryas Joel doing? What percentage of the populace in the USA don’t have marketable skills?

    However, I am veritably certain that there would never be tolerance of the level of incitement against them in the Western press in the aftermath of the Holocaust, and certainly there would not be a political party or two with their primary agenda being anti-Charedi.

  23. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Moshe Blum, how could the Zionists have hindered the rescue efforts? The Zionist movement at the time wasn’t particularly rich or powerful. They could be opposed to plans, but the gentile governments would decide if the approve or reject those plans based on their own interests and considerations.

    Nobody knows for sure how the Jews would have fared under the Hashemites without the backdrop of hatred. The best assumption is they would have fared as well as the Yeshuv Yashan did before the advent of Zionism in the 19th century.

    However, that was not the question I meant to ask. I’m sure that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai would rather the great rebellion against the Romans never happened. That didn’t matter – it did and he had to deal with the consequences. The Charedim in Eretz Israel today are in the same position (except that Israel hasn’t lost – Toda LaEl). Zionism happened. The Israeli-Arab wars happened. Jews who want to live in Eretz Israel have to deal with the consequences.

    The reason I asked about immigration laws is that they are relevant. If you’re born in country X you are a citizen of that country, and (except for a few exceptions) it has to let you live there. You might be a poor American or Frenchman, but you are one. If you want to move to a different country, you have to convince that country’s immigration authorities that they want to let you in. Usually this involves proving you are likely be a net gain to their economy. How would you prove to a gentile government that Charedim with almost purely Torah education will be good for their economy?

  24. sarah elias says:

    Ori, read The Unheeded Cry by Fuchs or Karati Ve’En Oneh to find out about how Zionists, the Jewish Agency, etc. did their best to hinder rescue efforts – and succeeded much of the time. A million Jews could have been saved if not for their interference.

  25. sarah elias says:

    Oh,and I forgot to add Ben Hecht’s Perfidy to the reading list.

  26. dovid says:

    “Oh,and I forgot to add Ben Hecht’s Perfidy to the reading list.”

    Ori, why is Ben Hecht’s Perfidy banned from Medinat Israel?

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