Will the Real Dov Lipman Please Stand Up?

Doron Beckerman’s detailed response to Dov Lipman notwithstanding, Lipman’s reaction to recent statements by Benjamin Netanyahu gives rise to more basic questions.

In his guest post to the Emes VeEmunah blog, MK Lipman insisted that the criminal sanctions against yeshiva students were not at all critical to the law, but were simply necessary for the law to pass scrutiny by the Supreme Court:

There was one issue which they took issue with regarding the law. They were against the “criminal sanctions.” …

The Yesh Atid platform did not have this component as part of the law. We knew it would be an issue for the haredi world even if it was just theoretical but there will never be police entering yeshiva dormitories and arresting the boys. So why was it included?

The government attorneys explained that the reason why we were writing a law to begin with was because the Supreme Court demanded that the Knesset pass a law with “equality.” If there was no clause in the law which mentioned the possibility of a full draft if the goals were not met, the law suits which would come on the heels of the law’s passage would not pass the test of the Supreme Court and we would be back to trying to draft another law.

As quoted in the Jerusalem Post, however, MK Lipman says precisely the opposite — that without criminal sanctions, all the rest is meaningless:

Speaking to the haredi Radio Kol Hai station on Sunday morning, Netanyahu said a clause in the law for haredi conscription, which was approved in March 2014 and would impose a possible two-year jail term on haredi men refusing to enlist, had been forced upon him by his coalition partners and he had never agreed to it….

“Everyone knows it wasn’t our choice, and everyone also knows that we oppose the idea of criminal sanctions – that a Jew should sit in prison for learning Torah – and we will change this as I have already declared many times,” Netanyahu said…

Yesh Atid MK Dov Lipman … heavily criticized the prime minister, saying his comments showed he was willing to reverse all progress made on the issue of haredi enlistment.

“I hope this makes it clear to all potential Likud voters that Prime Minister Netanyahu will undo the progress we have made over the last two years regarding the integration of the haredim into Israeli society,” Lipman said. “Now it is not mere speculation. He is saying it outright.”

MK Lipman needs to clarify his position. At least to his understanding, was Netanyahu talking about far more than the criminal sanctions? Did the Jerusalem Post blatantly misquote him? Or, perhaps, are the criminal sanctions far more central to Yesh Atid’s attempt at coercive social engineering than he stated in a post to an Orthodox blog?

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13 Responses

  1. Bob Miller says:

    A while back, I was willing to take Rabbi Lipman’s statements at face value, but he made this impossible by self-contradiction. I wonder now what he tells his political associates privately.

  2. Baruch says:

    1) There is no contradiction. Rabbi Lipman’s point was that without the criminal sanctions clause, the law would not be legally viable, and thus would be meaningless. He is therefore upset that Bibi wants to remove the criminal sanctions clause, which would effectively undermine the entire law. Agree or disagree, but I don’t see any logical inconsistency here.

    2) “Coercive social engineering”? Really? There’s no possibility of looking at this issue any other way? This can’t be about fairness and equality? This has nothing to do with the fact that some parents are forced to worry about their sons’ lives in battle while others don’t? It’s all about the desire to change charedim? You really can’t see any other side here?

    3) I wonder if the nosei keilim on the Shulchan Aruch scrutinize the Mechaber’s words to the extent that Lipman-haters scrutinize his. Instead of advancing a sound, rational argument for why charedim should not have the same civil duties as other Israelis, they choose to set Rabbi Lipman up as a straw man. Rabbi Lipman gave a very straightforward and reasonable explanation for why the criminal sanctions clause was necessary. If somebody has a counterargument, then we’ll all benefit from hearing it. But what we see here is childish nitpicking and kvetching to make Rabbi Lipman look like a villain.

    Rabbi Menken, it seems you don’t like the draft law. Either do I. But please just explain why, rather than malign and denigrate a sincere Torah Jew who is trying – successfully or otherwise – to help the charedi community and Israeli society generally.

    [1) This would be a great point if it were logically defensible. But in actuality, the law will remain in force until it does fail a Supreme Court challenge — at which point the Supreme Court would require something with more teeth. So if this were merely a legal requirement, its removal would in no way justify Lipman’s claim that Netanyahu “will undo all the progress we have made.”

    2) No, it’s not about “fairness” or “equality,” but about “the integration of the haredim into Israeli society.” Lipman said so, in plain English. And one could hardly ask for more evidence that it is coercive.

    3) You’re right. He gave a completely reasonable explanation, which completely contradicts his claim that by removing that one clause, Netanyahu “will undo all the progress we have made.” If that’s the best defense that can be mustered… — YM]

  3. dr. bill says:

    I am sure Rabbi Lipman can speak for himself, but to address so basic a “contradiction” does not require much effort. If Bibi needs the chareidim, it will not stop with him only removing jail sentences even though as a politician you would not expect him to fully describe the details on how he would cave. I suspect he knows that even if he held firm and only removed the threat of jail, it will (likely) cause Israel’s Supreme Court to intervene.

    [As mentioned to Baruch above, at that point the Supreme Court would basically require the restoration of the clause. Hardly ruining all the “progress” made. –YM]

  4. Jonathan Lipkin says:

    Seriously!?! Rabbi Dov Lipman is one of the most accessible people on the planet. Instead of the authors constantly slandering him on this blog why can’t they take a few minutes to simply pick up a phone or write an email.

    [It’s interesting to read this, alongside all the comments from people presuming to understand why the Gedolim are wrong without speaking to them. But here we are dealing with two public statements that starkly contradict each other. I called upon him to explain, in an equally public manner, what he meant, rather than privately to me. And you call it, without basis, “slander.” That too is interesting. –YM]

  5. Baruch says:

    1) Fine, so you think that the bill should have been passed without the criminal sanctions clause, and then wait for the Supreme Court’s decision. Fair enough. But there is still no contradiction. Rabbi Lipman claims that Yesh Atid’s legal advisors warned that without criminal sanctions the law is worthless, and so Bibi’s promise to remove the criminal sanctions clause is tantamount to undoing the law entirely. Whether this is right or wrong, it doesn’t matter – he’s not contradicting himself. It’s perfectly consistent.

    2) “The integration of chareidim into Israeli society” is all about equality and fairness. It means that the charedim need to be bear the obligations of Israeli citizens in order to receive the benefits of Israeli citizens. It means that they cannot live as a sovereign entity while demanding that the State of Israel protect them and support them. Agree or disagree, this is a far cry from “social engineering.”

    [1) But that’s simply untenable, as I already explained. The law would stay in force and then the Supreme Court would demand that it be strengthened in order to be “fair.” Netanyahu said nothing about all the other changes, like funding for yeshiva students, which is unlikely to be restored to previous levels (already vastly below the funding for study of Greek mythology, modern dance and other critical subjects in Israel’s secular universities). The removal of one tangential clause does not dismantle the whole ugly anti-charedi edifice that Yesh Atid built during its few years of mismanagement of Israel’s economy.

    2) Is there a G-d, Master of the world, and does He protect the Jews? Is hatred of Jews a rational force, or part of Divine Providence at work? [Hint: have a look at the condemnations of countries by the UNHRC, or simply at the Infographic posted by Avrohom Gordimer.]

    If you do not recognize that every military conflict involving Israel also involves open miracles, that is not the charedim’s problem. You may not get it, but Givati Brigade commander Ofer Winter does. There is nothing “fair” or “equal” about removing that Divine Protection so that more Jews die — just denial of G-d and His wishes, and endangerment of all of us [all Jews, in all places].

    The Charedim would have refused to be part of the State, even after Yaakov De Haan was murdered, until Ben-Gurion made an agreement with the Chazon Ish. The fact that he underestimated the resiliency of Torah Judaism is, again, not the charedim’s problem. When you make a deal, you live with it, you don’t try to renege on it later.

    All the Charedim are saying is “keep your word,” and this is being called “religious coercion.” –YM]

  6. Daniel says:

    Not sure if you’re correct about the above point, you cant repeal the clause without repealing the whole law.

    [Netanyahu quite openly feels otherwise. –YM]

  7. Y. Ben-David says:

    Rav Menken, regarding your reply to Baruch saying that Yesh Atid’s positions involve “coercion”, I would say that is correct. All modern states and societies use coercion, none more than the Haredi society itself. They use coercion all the time in forcing secular Israelis to get married through a Haredi-controlled Chief Rabbinate, there is all kinds of coercion in things like Kashrut where it is difficult, for example, to buy Hametz during Pesach. Non-religious soldiers are required to hear Kiddush with their heads covered on Shabbat if religious soldiers are present and they are restricted in playing radios and making noise around religious soldiers on Shabbat. The list goes on and on. If the Haredim don’t want coercion forced on them, then I think that a package deal can be worked out….the Haredim would be permanently and fully exempted from military or civilian national service, and in return they would give up control of the Chief Rabbinate and other realms involving religious “coercion” in the public square. The Religious Zionists do support the types of “coercion” I mentioned above but they would take it on themselves to deal with the role of religious tradition in the public square whereas the Haredim would withdraw from these fields. I think it is time for everyone to start thinking about such a package deal in order to defuse the unfortunately growing tension over these matters.

    [In other words, keeping to the status quo, keeping the agreements that hold a diverse Israel together (for none of the above are new, none of them are “Haredi demands” but Israeli practice since 1948, though the Chief Rabbis selected via the standard pre-existing democratic process are indeed now Haredi), is “Haredi coercion.” Non-religious soldiers required to hear Kiddush “if religious soldiers are present” (and note how many charedim are in non-charedi army units!) is “Haredi coercion.” Anything that makes Israel a Jewish state, rather than a state of people who may or may not be Jewish and may or may not speak modern Hebrew, is “Haredi coercion.” I have no comment. –YM]

  8. Aryeh Lev says:

    Rabbi Menken, you’ve said repeatedly on this blog that Ben Gurion’s agreement with the Chazon Ish is a permanent deal to which future generations of Israelis are bound.

    I’m not sure you understand how either the legal system or the political process work. Israel is a democracy. A previously elected leader cannot bind future elected leaders, unless he enters into a treaty (with another country) or passes a Basic Law (with the support of either 61 or 80 MKs (depending on the article). Even then, future supermajorities can overturn the Basic Law.)

    After the Chazon Ish refused to support military service for Torah scholars, Ben Gurion passed an ordinary law exempting yeshiva students from military service. Plenty of other laws passed by Ben Gurion’s government have been overturned. I’m not sure why you assume this one has any elevated status.

    [First and foremost, do you agree that not reneging on a deal is not coercion?

    Second, there is something inherently different between an “ordinary” law set and changed by democratic consensus, versus a mutual agreement by which two parties agree to work together. In the latter case, it is obviously unfair and unreasonable for the majority party to waive the agreement in a manner injurious to the minority once the larger party has gotten what it wanted. –YM]

  9. Aryeh Lev says:

    Thanks for your response. I’ll happily answer your first question and respond to your second point.

    First, no one is “reneging on a deal,” because no one supporting the shivyon banetel bill was party to a deal struck over 60 years ago. Yair Lapid, Dov Lipman, and Naftali Bennett weren’t even born then. I’m not sure how you think these elected leaders should be bound by a policy adopted by two men from whom they differ philosophically.

    Second, you are vastly overstating what Ben Gurion and the Chazon Ish agreed to. They didn’t agree to “work together.” The Chazon Ish told Ben Gurion that his movement to reestablish the Jewish State was analagous to a camel carrying an empty load, and it would have to yield to the needs of the charedi community (a camel with a full load, in the Chazon Ish’s talmudic metaphor.) Ben Gurion decided not to fight the Chazon Ish, because he (erroneously) assumed that the charedi world would die out on its own. Hardly an agreement to work together for generations. And certainly not something that later policymakers are forbidden from revisiting.

    [I wasn’t aware the State, as an entity, ceased to exist at some time after 1948, such that the State, as an entity, has no need to keep obligations it made at that time. And the fact that Ben-Gurion had no understanding of Jewish history, of Jewish survival, of that which maintains Klal Yisrael, is again not the charedim’s problem. It certainly does not justify further foolishness of a similar kind, in a way that endangers us all. –YM]

  10. Nachum says:

    I’m not grasping how any “obligations” can legally have be made to the Chazon Ish, who was an individual and did not legally represent anybody.

    [I have a hard time imagining that you don’t, in reality, understand who the Chazon Ish was or who he was represented. This is the wrong venue in which to feign such ignorance. — YM]

  11. Yaakov Menken says:

    Further comments are limited to one per person, limited to those using their real name, and must be directly topical rather than tangential. I haven’t the ability to respond to “Baruch” making yet a third attempt to rehash the same points and also get work done. Happy Purim!

  12. Nachum Boehm says:

    The State of Israel did not enter into a permanent agreement with the Chareidim. Rather, the Government passed a regular law that was favorable to the Chareidim. The law is binding like any other law, and can be amended or changed like any other law. If Ben Gurion made personal assurances, those are not legally or morally binding on anyone not a party to those negotiations.

    As to your accusation regarding “coercive social engineering” the fact is that the vast majority of Israelis do not believe that the Chareidim provide any protection with their learning. Furthermore, even if the Israeli voters believed that the learning provides protection (which again, they do not), it would still be unfair that by virture of birth into a given family one is automatically exempt from the army and the concomittant burdens thereof.

    As such, the attempt by the Israel electorate to integrate the Chareidim into the army can be seen as an attempt to equalize the burdens carried by society.

    In light of the above, I don’t understand why you can’t imagine that, for those who voted for Yesh Atid, this is about fairness (even as you disagree with the passage of the law on the grounds that worldwide Jewry will be inadequately protected if we close Kollels in EY).

    [You reject the term I used, “coercive social engineering,” and then proceed to validate it entirely. The State made an agreement with the Charedi leadership, without which the very existence of the state could have been called into question. Both the State and the Charedi leadership still exist. The Israeli voters not only reject the Charedi worldview, but require the Charedim to integrate with them, in their “melting pot,” on their terms — steamrolling over the opinions of the Charedi leadership. Whatever lovely terms you may put on it, it remains exactly as originally described. –YM]

  13. Y. Ben-David says:

    Nachum Boehm makes a good point about the “status quo” agreement. It was made a time when the government was much more authoritarian than it is today. Israelis today do not view it as cast in stone. The reason for all the tension is that the Haredi leadership has adamantly refused to tell the Israeli public how they view the role of the Haredim in Israeli society. Sometimes we hear the Satmar/Eda Haredit line which says they reject the legitimacy of the state and do not feel bound by the obligations of being an Israeli citizen, and they do not take state money (this is not strictly true but they don’t take state money for their education system). Another side we often hear from other parts of their leadership is that they are part of Israeli society and accept its obligations, but that those studying Torah full-time are doing the equivalent of national service (which actually the new law does recognize officially for the first time) but those who are not studying should serve in the IDF. A third approach is that of those who do accept money from the state but refuse to even register at the conscription center and that all Haredim should be allowed to avoid service, even if they are not studying Torah full-time. This last one is the hardest for the average Israeli to understand….i.e. demanding the benefits of citizenship but refusal to accept the duties of that same citizenship.
    As long as the Haredi leadership refuses to talk to the rest of us, face-to-face and tell us where exactly they stand, the tension will continue.

    [This comment is stunning for the level at which it turns the truth on its head. The Haredi community, as diverse as it is, is led by scholars who make their voices quite clear to anyone listening — which the media usually is not. The fact that you haven’t read their opinions is a failing not of their lack of clarity, but of the media you read. –YM]

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