Rabbis Without Borders
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Freedom from choice is a disturbing trend in American politics today, and both Republicans and Democrats are guilty of it. Two examples come to mind. One is the partisan division on Israel, and the other is the presumptive nomination of Hillary Clinton as the free and clear Democratic candidate for presidency.
My own opinion on the re-election of Bibi Netanyahu as Prime Minister of Israel is that it is a good thing. It is true that his antics preceding the election were embarrassing to the State of Israel, and that his racist comments on the day of the election were ill-considered, especially for a head of state. His post election ‘walking-back’ of his divisive comments will ring hollow and untrue to both political friends and enemies. Nonetheless, I do believe that only a hawk such as Netanyahu can deliver a peace agreement and parallel Palestinian state. The left likes to hold up Itzhak Rabin, z”l, as the Israeli Prime Minister peacemaker willing to negotiate an actual Palestinian state. But, that was only possible because of his Long standing military, hawkish political background. I don’t like Netanyahu’s politicking, but I will hold out hope that he can rise to the occasion.
In the wake of Netanyahu’s visit to the United States, I am concerned about what seems to be a new Republican litmus test. There is no room for any disagreement in the Republican Party on Israel. “Are you with Bibi or are you against America?” Is there any room for debate on the Republican side regarding Israel? Or, foreign-policy in general? I fear not. The lack of any serious disagreement on foreign policy, regarding the State of Israel in particular, is a myopic of the Republican Party.
Where there is no dialogue, no contrast of subtle opinions, there is very little room for serious democratic progress. The lack of even subtle disagreements on the Republican side seems especially crafted to identify any differing position as dangerous. I believe this trend weakens the Republican Party, and has dangerous divisive consequences beyond the beltway regarding how Israelis perceived.
A similarly disturbing trend in the Democratic Party is the heretofore unopposed candidacy of Hillary Clinton for President. How can that be? Falling in line behind one politician almost two years before an election does not describe a healthy ‘big tent’. Where there are presumptive outcomes there will be little debate, and therefore little engagement by the public. I say that this is a similar issue to the Republican litmus test problem because Hillary’s candidacy stifles debate. This is a problem. Let us hope that other credible candidates emerge so that ‘We the People’ can learn about the issues we face as a nation from the differences by which differing candidates might govern.
The Jews at Sinai heard the voice of God in 600,000 unique ways. We say that the Truths of the Torah can be seen through a prism of 70 differing, sometimes paradoxically so, facets. Abraham Joshua Heschel said that if “I ever think I know God, I know I must be wrong.” Inspiringly, we live in a world a tremendous beauty and tremendous paradox. The task of a mature religion is show the vast spectrum of wisdom. The task of politics is to move us from vast and conflicting wisdom in to real choices. Choosing one prism lens of truth over another always results in some loss. This is inevitable, and the stakes are often unalterable. I have great respect for the gravity of the awesome task required of political leaders. However, to stifle public consideration of the myriad of possibilities
making choices is not political leadership, at least not by the ideals of democracy. For Democrats and Republicans to act as if they are so certain about a particular point of view is an affront to the very fabric of liberty upon which the United States was founded.
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Pronunced: TORE-uh, Origin: Hebrew, the Five Books of Moses.