By Michoel Leib Dobry
The citizens of Eretz Yisroel are gearing up for the country’s second national election in a little more than two years, the shortest span between election cycles in the Jewish state for more than half a century. Regardless of how people may have voted in their last trip to the polls, they largely agree that the resulting coalition government was one of the most unpredictable and inconsistent on issues pertaining to national security, defense, and foreign affairs, particularly on the conduct during Operation “Protective Edge” and the failure to annihilate the Hamas enemy in Gaza. But above all, this government stands out for the antagonistic and belligerent stance it took towards the ultra-Orthodox community regarding compulsory military service, severe cuts to the Torah education budget for Jewish children, the endless government controlled media incitement, and the housing crisis that needs immediate solutions.
As a result, it is imperative thatwe first remember the Rebbe’s clear directive on voting in Knesset elections: “The holy obligation and privilege of each and every chareidi and those who fear the word of G-d is to participate personally in the elections and to influence others to vote for the most chareidi list, so that not one vote goes to waste.” (Igros Kodesh, Vol. 4, Letter #1064, p. 345)
The citizens of Eretz Yisroel are confronted during this election campaign with a variety of critical issues that will bear heavily on the future of the Jewish homeland. We are not just speaking from the point of view of its very existence and security against the scourge of Arab terrorism, but also regarding its sustained viability as a Jewish state, not some Hebrew-speaking carbon copy of Los Angeles or Singapore. Eretz Yisroel faces the threat of Iran’s nuclear weapons development and the continued pressure to strive for the establishment of an independent “Palestinian” state in the heart of the Holy Land.
THE DANGER OF “WASTING VOTES”
During the coalition crisis of 5750, the Rebbe spoke with Voice of Israel radio correspondent Oded Ben-Ami about the need for “a complete (and uncompromised) Nation, a complete (and uncompromised) Land, a completeness in all of the Land, together with a complete (and uncompromised) Torah –all of which are interdependent.”Therefore, while we place our trust and our fate upon our strength as believers in Alm-ghty G-d, and we know well that we have only to rely upon our Father in Heaven, Chabad chassidim must also exercise sound judgment in choosing which political party can achieve the greatest good on behalf of Shleimus Ha’Am, Shleimus HaTorah, and Shleimus Ha’aretz. In connection with the Rebbe’s overall instructions on participating in the elections in Eretz Yisroel, I wrote the following two years ago: “Naturally, the question of which party running for the Knesset best represents ‘the most chareidi list [of candidates]’ is subject to legitimate debate… The best option would be for all religious and right-wing parties to join forces as a united bloc on one list, as the Rebbe requested on numerous occasions. This will maximize their electoral strength while maintaining their status as independent parliamentary factions, and ensure ‘that not one vote goes to waste,’ if they should splinter off into separate lists.”
Since the last election, the Knesset passed legislation raising the electoral threshold to 3.25% of all valid ballots cast, i.e., approximately 125,000 votes. In many ways, this legislation compels rival parties within the same ideological camp to put their petty differences aside and unite for their common cause, and with good reason. In four of the last seven Knesset elections, Chabad chassidim voted in large numbers, sometimes overwhelmingly, for a party that didn’t receive enough electoral support to win parliamentary seats. In 5752, while the right-wing bloc received more votes than the left-wing, the failure of three ultra-nationalist parties to pass the electoral threshold (Mizrachi, Levinger, Tehiya) resulted in Yitzchak Rabin and Shimon Peres coming to power and bringing upon us the cursed Oslo Accords. Thus, when the Rebbe wrote “so that not one vote goes to waste,” it would seem to indicate that this threshold should not be disregarded out of hand.
Of course, the first person to speak out in favor of a “united technical religious front” was the Rebbe MH”M. His holy vision enabled him to see the need for joining forces as to run for the Knesset as one list of candidates which can garner considerable electoral support to win a sizable number of parliamentary seats.
The Rebbe wrote dozens of letters on the subject to anyone he believed might have some influence on national religious politics in Eretz Yisroel. The Rebbe proposed the concept of a technical religious front, i.e. a single united Knesset list with a certain number of seats guaranteed to each party. Thus, after the elections, each party serving as a member of this united front can operate independently. The idea of running a technical joint Knesset list is designed to serve the interest of an election campaign, and afterwards ensure the independence of each political party that participates in this effort. The Rebbe explained in numerous correspondences that such a joint list can bring in many votes from a wide range of sectors of the population in Eretz HaKodesh.
PLACE ALL PREVIOUS DISPUTES ON THE SIDE
Today, decades after the Rebbe conducted a determined struggle on the issue of forging a technical united religious front, this method has been transformed into a recognized political reality, as politicians with a keen eye know how to use it for their own purposes.
According to the current political reality, the Rebbe’s demand for a technical religious front is an absolute must. It is inconceivable that the left-of-center parties can join forces and the Arab parties can create a united list of candidates in spite of the deep and polarizing political differences between them, whereas the right-wing parties fail to grasp that their failure to unite will lead to the loss of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of votes, the equivalent of several Knesset seats. This will virtually give the next government of Israel to the most extreme left-wing parties on a silver platter.
History proves that if we really want it, it’s possible to join forces and unite and present a true alternative. In all the struggles when the ultra-Orthodox and other religious communities worked together, we saw ‘Didan Natzach.’
We must leave all past disputes on the side, including personal and political considerations. The Rebbe wrote numerous letters about how the religious front has not been created due to personal considerations of those with a vested political interest. It would seem that just as the situation made it appropriate then, it makes it appropriate now. Now, however, with the spiritual and security situation in the country hanging in the balance, there’s no time for personal intrigue.
This demand must come from the people, from the voting populace, who must make it clear to its elected representatives that they will not receive its votes unless there is a technical religious front, which can present a leadership alternative to the decaying regime in power today.
The struggle for the religious front is not a political matter; it is part of the struggles of Melech HaMoshiach and all Chabad chassidim, and therefore, we have a tremendous obligation to advance this cause. If we wisely raise the level of awareness of the great potential benefit concealed within this process and if we also apply pressure upon concerned parties, informing them that their positions of authority are in immediate jeopardy without a united list, we will then surely achieve much success on behalf of the People of Israel.
With G-d’s help, we will do and we will succeed, and in the merit of our efforts, we will hasten the day when as the Rebbe said, “I hope that very soon the prime minister there will be Moshiach Tzidkeinu.”
YECHI ADONEINU MOREINU V’RABBEINU MELECH HA’MOSHIACH L’OLAM VA’ED!!
THE REBBE ON A UNITED TECHNICAL FRONT
The Rebbe spent close to three decades fighting for a united technical religious front as an effective means of maximizing the electoral power of the Orthodox community in Eretz Yisroel on a variety of issues affecting the People, the Land, and the Torah of Israel. Here are a few letters from the Rebbe on the subject:
I was shocked from his telegram [to learn of] the abrogation of the religious front…Surely if the parties would concede on partisan benefits, the front’s establishment will be possible. This is imperative not only in a general sense, but for each of the parties. It is my fervent hope that at such a critical hour, each party will recognize its overall responsibility and advance the front’s establishment. In accordance with our conversation here, I am certain that he will strive in the aforementioned, and thank you in advance for the good news you will convey to me in this matter. With blessing in anticipation of Divine Mercy.
(Telegram reply to Interior Minister Moshe Shapira, 9 Sivan 5711)
Each party must concede partisan benefits in favor of the public good. It goes without saying that this applies regarding a chareidi for whom ultra-Orthodox Judaism takes precedence over considerations for material profit, even guaranteed profit, and needless to say if the matter seems in doubt. Especially if the perceived profit can also develop into a loss.
I assert that a united front within religious Judaism in Eretz HaKodesh is imperative not just for the public good, but also for each of the parties. I turn to you as to a chareidi who will try with all his strength and influence to create a united religious front, even if the matter requires partisan concessions. I am certain that you will give priority to the matter of ultra-Orthodox Judaism in general and influence in this direction wherever your authority reaches.
(Letter to Dr. Yosef Burg, 9 Sivan 5711)
I hope that elections in Eretz HaKodesh will not take place now or at least be postponed for a period of time, as this is not the right time for a variety of reasons. At the very least, there should be unity within ultra-Orthodox Judaism in order to establish a united front for the elections.
(Letter to the Poalei Agudat Yisroel Federation, 13 Sivan 5711)
This opportunity compels me to express my amazement that nothing has been heard on the matter of a united front, as you know my view that during the last elections, there was a critical need for a united religious front. Furthermore, just as my position is abundantly clear against a permanent front, so too my position is clear that a united technical religious front is a necessity for the elections, and with even greater force in the present situation where the leftists have increased [in power], unlike the religious. And since we have seen the difficulty with organizing the front in the past, which demands lengthy and well-timed preparation, there is surely a need to act swiftly in this matter, and particularly to pay close attention to the overall situation and be wary about leftist surprises in overcoming public opinion. Therefore, the lack of timely action can bring immeasurable damage.
(Letter to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Shragay, 23 Adar Sheni 5719)