It’s getting suffocating, Israelis need to attack the country’s issues, not each other

By David E. Kaplan

Every Saturday night, while walking amongst hundreds of flag-bearing protestors towards Kfar Saba’s main square, we are met with the same solitary individual bellowing expletives from his first floor balcony.

His animated harangue – mostly incomprehensible – is interspersed with loud outbursts of devotion to “King Bibi”, a sentiment for the Israeli prime minister certainly not shared with the throng of protesters below.  

This ‘Balcony Scene’ plays out like a weekly ritual with little change – he shouts, a few protestors in the crowd shout back; mostly he is ignored, a lot laugh. Some invite him to jump!

Amusing and sad, this tragi-comic scene is a microcosm of the nature of the division and the discourse today in Israel, and that it crosses party lines is hardly an equality to be proud of.

During a shouting match in Knesset in January 2022, Yesh Atid’s Merav Ben-Ari called  Ofer Cassif of the  the Jewish-Arab Hadash party a “misogynistic racist and Israel hater,” to which he responded by calling his female counterpart a “hen”. Such parliamentary eloquence!

Sad Sight. This is what Jewish revenge looks like when unchecked. A yard where cars were torched by Israeli settlers in the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

While protesters to the judicial overhaul have unjustly likened Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the prime minister has behaved little better, maliciously equating the legitimate protestors in support of Israeli democracy with the Jewish settlers who in a revenge attack, torched a number of Palestinian villages. Extremists destroyed homes and cars with one Palestinian 27-year-old man shot and killed.

And as for Netanyahu’s extreme right-wing National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir who is gung ho to deal harshly (“zero tolerance”) with judicial overhaul protestors, and about whom former police chiefs warned poses “a tangible and immediate danger to the security of the State of Israel,” has called the settlers who rampaged and torched Palestinian villages:

 “sweet boys

Revenge Rampage. The Jewish settlers who caused this while on a revenge rampage in the West Bank are referred to by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir as “sweet boys”. [Hisham K. K. Abu Shaqra/Anadolu]

Each day the divisions widens and the discourse becomes more disquieting. From the politicians to the people, the nature of engagement is characterised by more screaming than talking and so avoiding getting down to exploring a national consensus on fundamental issues that could prove more protective in safeguarding this nation’s future than a squadron of new generation fighter planes. Yes, we need to always increase our arsenal as we are responsibly doing by ordering the latest 25 F-35s from the U.S. but at the same time we also need to responsibly create a sustainable society based on consensus polices that can provide security and prosperity.


Top of the list dividing this nation is the “settlement enterprise” or alternatively the “Two-State Solution”, the latter which the Prime Minister Netanyahu endorsed in his 2009 Bar Ilan speech and which is now unravelling for being “unviable”.  Maybe so maybe not but it needs to be seriously part of the national conversation. Instead we see a Netanyahu frustrated at his judicial overhaul blocked by unrelenting protestors, paying off the extremist wing of his coalition with annexation coin. Hence the Israel cabinet approved a resolution to speed up the process of constructing buildings in Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria (West Bank).

Construction or Destruction. Will plans to speed up building in the West Bank sabotage prospects for peace?

For Israel to continue to thrive, it must continue to build,” says the mayor of Mitzpe Yericho, a religious West Bank settlement located 20 km east of Jerusalem. While the mayor’s sentiment most likely is not shared by a majority of Israelis, like the bulldozers that one day will prepare the ground, this coalition will bulldoze its policy of frenzied construction, regardless of the consequences.

Where is the national conversation that this is what we should be doing?


Then there is the issue of the Haredim, who some argue are a bigger threat to Israel than Palestinians or Iran. The rapidly expanding Haredi state-within-a-state’s current dynamic cannot continue on its current trajectory without eroding Israel’s brittle tenure as a Western-style democracy as well as sustain its impressive per capita income rivaling top European economies. How and when will this be resolved?

Ticking Time Bomb. How will the unemployment rates within a rapidly growing Haredi community impact Israel’s future?

All these issues demand to be nationally addressed in the present and not like the proverbial can kicked down the road, again and again, by successive leaderships.

Its frequently said about the Palestinians that “there is no partner” or “there is no one to talk to”. Over the last disastrous six months of this government tempestuous tenure, this could apply to us Israelis:

 “there are no partners” and “no one to talk to”.

As I write,  Israel’s opposition were up in arms  of the vote that took place in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee led by MK Simcha Rothman (Religious Zionist Party) approving the controversial “reasonableness standard bill”. Calling it a “one-sided and oppressive move that harms the citizens of Israel and tears apart the people,” opposition leader and Yesh Atid chairman MK Yair Lapid and National Unity chairman MK Benny Gantz said in a joint statement that the bill was intended not to defend citizens but to defend politicians.

There were protests preceding this vote and there will be a lot more following it.

In going forward, we should remember the line, whose source is uncertain but whose message is clear:

“We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”

Future generations are depending on us – we have a responsibility to behave responsibly.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

2 thoughts on ““I CAN’T BREATHE”

  1. Highly recommend Rabbi Doron Perez s book The Jewish State A vision for unity in Israel and why the world needs it

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