Edited transcript of the Eidelberg, Israel National Radio, February 18, 2008.
Part I. The Third Commonwealth
There is no shortage of prophets of doom and gloom in Israel today. What is one to expect from a prime minister who, speaking for himself and his political colleagues, said in New York in June 2005, “We are tired of being courageous.” One has to be a total jackass to make such as statement—surely heard or read by Israel’s enemies. What does this confession of moral and intellectual bankruptcy indicate?
That such a dangerous fool—a blabbermouth—remains in power is enough evidence to indicate that Israeli politicians not only lack genuine patriotism, but have also raised the white flag to the enemy. Israeli politicians across the political spectrum have been corrupted by an anti-heroic and morally neutral system of education on the one hand, and by a political and electoral system that perpetuates the power of timid politicians on the other.
Israeli office-seekers, including religious nationalists, see that the electoral system based on proportional representation (PR) and fixed party slates with a low electoral threshold maximizes their chances of entering the Knesset. More significant, they see the Knesset as the springboard to obtaining a cabinet post—the road to political power and political longevity. This was made clear in a 1953 publication of the Beth Hillel Society, which shows that proportional representation fragments the nation and undermines the development of national character.
That serious efforts have not been made by politicians to change this wretched system calls to mind the words of Montesquieu: “At the birth of societies, the rulers of republics establish institutions; and afterwards the institutions mould the rulers.” Yes, members of the Knesset learn very quickly that the system serves their personal and partisan interests—and this is enough to corrupt “the best and the brightest.”
The system has given Israel some 30 different governments in 60 years. This maximizes corruption and renders it virtually impossible to pursue a long-range national strategy. Efforts to change the system from within are futile, and band-aid reforms will accomplish nothing. There is not a single person on the political horizon that has the wherewithal to lead a movement for “regime change.” and nothing less is necessary. We are approaching the end of the Third Commonwealth.
To be fair, the establishment of the Third Commonwealth facilitated the in-gathering of the Jews. The State built the technological infrastructure and the military means of defending the country. In other words, the State facilitated Israel physical redemption. But now the State is the greatest obstacle to Israel’s spiritual-intellectual redemption.
The State was intended to give Jews security and national dignity. But security and national dignity alone cannot satisfy the spiritual-intellectual needs and yearnings of the Jewish People. The Zionists who established the State did not aim high enough; we see the consequences: Israel is the most insecure nation on earth, and thanks to the inane and cowardly behavior of some of its recent prime ministers¸ Israel has not a stitch of national honor.
The decadence started long before Sderot. Not only was the structure of the State poorly designed, but its Declaration of Independence—whose signatories included four rabbis—tacitly denies the Sinai Covenant. No religious party could supply the omission. It took the expulsion of 8,000 Jews from Gush Katif before it occurred to some religious Zionists that the State is the enemy of the Jewish People, of the Nation, of which the State should be the servant, not the master. But the sovereign state is an idea going back to Machiavelli. It seems our religious Zionists did not study political science.
So people ask me—a student of political science—what can be done? But the problem confronting Israel transcends political science. We are dealing with a theological problem. The first thing needed is conceptual clarity, and don’t expect this from politicians or from those whose immersion into politics corrupts their religiosity.
The very idea of a Jewish State is a contradiction in terms. So is Judaism and politics—at least modern politics. Politics is rooted in the struggle for power or egoism. This is far from the humility of Moses, Israel’s greatest leader and teacher. Although democracy affirms human dignity, it is now steeped in vulgarity. The only solid foundation of human dignity is the Torah concept of man’s creation in the image of God, without which there can be no ethical and rational constraints on democracy’s permissive freedom and leveling equality. But God has no public space in the secular democratic state.
Democracy means the sovereignty of the people. But Judaism affirms the sovereignty of God. Hence, we need to educate a generation that believes in the sovereignty of the people under God—once taught in the United States. Who is teaching this in Israel?
Part II. The Fourth Commonwealth
Ever since the Enlightenment and the triumphalism of science as the paradigm of knowledge, atheism has been gaining ascendancy in academia. In the last two decades, however, and thanks to certain scientists, a theoretical convergence of science and Torah has been taking place. Physicist Gerald Schroeder illustrates this convergence in The Science of God. Last year, microbiologist Francis Collins, head of the Human Genome Project, published The Language of God, which counters the atheism of biologist Richard Dawkins. We need departments of science and a ministry of education attuned to these controversies, for they affect the patriotism and Jewish identity of citizens and soldiers. Students should be wrestling with these problems, for no subject is more important than God. And for this education, no venue is more appropriate than Israel
In some books, I have taken a step toward developing a convergence of political science and Torah. But we need a team of diverse scholars for such an enterprise. Perhaps every university department should have at least one professor who can relate his discipline to the Torah.
I am alluding to an unknown Israel. There is a creative Israel and a stagnant Israel. Stagnant is the political or pseudo-democratic State of Israel, steeped in conceptual dissonance, egoism, and lies. Emerging, however, is a spiritual-intellectual Israel interfacing Torah and science in quest of truth. Maimonides himself maintained that science is the only path to the knowledge of God; and the Vilna Gaon said knowledge of science is necessary for a full understanding of the Torah.
I believe the Torah will eventually yield the deepest strata of knowledge of nature and of man—as was indicated some years ago by Henri Baruk, a French biologist and psychologist.
In the meantime, serious Jews should prepare to assume power when the State collapses, as it eventually will. They must now develop plans for reorganizing the Judicial, Legislative, and Executive branches of government—which reminds me of Isaiah 33:22: “For Hashem is our Judge, Hashem is our Lawgiver, Hashem is our King.” Of course, in the absolute unity of Hashem, there is no separation of powers. In the fallible government of man, however, separation of powers is necessary as exemplified in the American Constitution, which is very much rooted in Jewish principles.
This, I believe, should be the model of government for the New Jewish Congress, alluded to in a previous report.
Since we cannot prevent the collapse of the ill-designed Third Commonwealth, let us start working on a well-designed alternative commonwealth. We need a team representing diverse professions and sectors of society, a team capable of formulating a national strategy whose details must of course await articulation in the future.
I am alluding to the Fourth Commonwealth. In that Commonwealth, all the inhabitants of Israel—Jews and resident aliens—will acknowledge the Torah as the supreme law of the land. Torah knowledge will inspire every heart and home in Israel. The Temple will be rebuilt. Israel will at last fulfill its world-historical mission, to relate Hashem’s infinite wisdom, power, and graciousness in every domain of existence.
At last the world will behold a Nation in which freedom dwells with Righteousness, equality with Excellence, wealth with Beauty, the here and now with love of the Eternal.