Monday, 8 October 2007

Netanyahu on the Status of Zion

In an interview with Ynet, Benjamin Netenyahu, chairman of Israel's conservative Likud party, made the following criticism of Prime Minister Olmert's stance on Jerusalem and his willingness to make concessions:

"Jerusalem isn't just any city. The Western Wall isn't real estate and the Temple Mount isn't any piece of land. These concepts are at the root of our identity and national existence. The unbearable lightness with which a government – that has no mandate or support from the Jewish people – surrenders Zion shows the deterioration of the values of Israeli society".

What do people make of that?

4 comments:

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Still no comments?

I think Netenyahu is attempting to appropriate Israel's covenant relationship with God for political ends.

What Israel should do with the occupied territories is not really my business. The relationship between the USA, Israel, and Palestine is more relevant. (Though I am a Canadian.)

I believe Israel had/has a special role in salvation history. But I do not think we in the West should make political decisions on that basis. Salvation history is God's project, not ours.

Politicians should do politics in a way that does not excuse the sins (or crimes) of any nation — and does not scapegoat any nation, making it responsible for all the world's ills.

If God wants to preserve Israel, he doesn't need human machinations to achieve that end. We should always be cynical about any politician who appeals to sacred history to justify contemporary political decisions.

Phil Sumpter said...

I think Netenyahu is attempting to appropriate Israel's covenant relationship with God for political ends.

Is it possible to separate religion and politics in a Jewish framework? OK, there are various types of Judaism, but they are all connected with an attachment to a particular geographical 'homeland' with a sense of national sovereignty and identity. This is really ancient (cf. The Book of Joshua, the promises in Isaiah), and throughout the the long 'exile' before 1949 the phrase “next year in Jerusalem” was meant literally.

I find this quote fascinating because of the secular stance of the Likud party. And Bibi isn't referring to religion per se, but national identity; i.e. Jerusalem is the Jewish equivalent of Buckingham Palace for Brits (I mean in kind, of course, not in terms of intensity of attachment). I just wonder what that means when God is taken out of the picture. I adore modern Israel because of the multiple contradictions that it embodies!

I believe Israel had/has a special role in salvation history. But I do not think we in the West should make political decisions on that basis

It's interesting that that's what most Orthodox Jews said before the foundation of the State of Israel (and some still, cf. Neturei Karta). The Zionist logic was very secular. Some said things like, if God didn't help us in the holocaust, then it's time we got on with it ourselves. Herzl was originally an integrationist. I wonder how Orthodox Jewish Zionists explain that?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I find this quote fascinating because of the secular stance of the Likud party.

But that's precisely my point. Netenyahu is co-opting religious symbols for this-worldly political ends.

"Jerusalem isn't just any city. … The unbearable lightness with which a government … surrenders Zion shows the deterioration of the values of Israeli society."

Guess what? From a secular perspective, Jerusalem is just another city. It's only special to Netenyahu because he is an Israeli politician.

But that isn't what he's saying in that quote. He's appealing to all the religious symbolism and sentiment associated with Jerusalem / Zion. It's a cynical political manoeuvre, and Christians shouldn't be sucked in by it — certainly not Christian living outside of Israel.

Is it possible to separate religion and politics in a Jewish framework?

You'd best learn to separate them, or you'll find yourself wondering whether it's prudent to bomb Iran and let God sort things out when the shrapnel starts flying in unpredictable directions.

I'm serious. I think this is a very dangerous mindset you're flirting with.

Phil Sumpter said...

From a secular perspective, Jerusalem is just another city

I think we're in agreement here. I would like to know how Netanyahu would justify his statement. The original secular Zionists would have been content with Uganda, from what I understand.

You'd best learn to separate them

I wasn't making a personal statement, just attempting to understand Judaism. You're right politics and religion are a dangerous mix. But politics without religion can also be dangerous. What's the solution?