Saturday, February 28, 2009
Approximately three weeks ago the people of Israel went to the polls in order to attempt to elect new leadership to guide them as the troubled Jewish nation moves forward in particularly challenging times. I am no expert on Israel or it's political process, but I am going to try to explain the possible outcomes, as well as to explain why that outcome is important to you. Americans have to begin by understanding that Israeli elections are not as clear-cut as those in the United States. For all of the faults of our own democratic system, all of the intense battles between Republicans and Democrats, Israel's hodgepodge of parties on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum cause extreme confusion. Not only that, but the plethora of parties with competing visions, goals, and ideologies makes it difficult to form a ruling governmental structure. In America it is easy to simply add up the number of Dems and GOP members in the House and Senate to get a picture of who holds the power. When the party in power in Congress is the same as that of the elected President, that party holds most of the cards in getting it's agenda passed. If there is a Democratic Party president with a Democratic majority congress, as there is right now, then liberal ideologies, programs, and laws are going to be front and center. With a Republican president and congress, such as happened in the beginning of the most recent Bush administration for example, then conservative principles, laws, and policies are going to hold sway. There are the same issues of government in Israel as there are in America regarding domestic problems, but in Israel there really is one issue above all others: national security. Israel is surrounded on all sides by neighbors that want to see it wiped from the map, including a few that have actually tried to accomplish just that feat. Against this backdrop was last month's Knesset election which came down to a struggle between former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (pictured on left) and his Likud Party, and the Kadima Party of foreign minister Tzipi Livni (pictured on right.) To understand the importance, think of the Knesset as the Israeli version of America's congress. The Likud Party is a conservative party, and has been either the ruling party in the Knesset or the leading opposition party for over three decades. It calls for a "peace for peace" initiative in regards to its Arab neighbors, meaning that Israel will agree to peace on the condition that her neighbors comply with the same in an overt and verifiable manner. The Kadima Party was just formed in the past few years and is generally considered a more centrist political group. Kadima has been criticized by many because a feature of their Arab policy has been the surrendering of the territory in Judea and Samaria, key territory in properly defending Israel from the attacks of terror organizations such as Hamas. Likud is also more of a free market, small government party, whereas Kadima's economic platform seems to blow with the popular breeze. Unlike here in America where ours is a vast majority two-party system, it is not just Likud and Kadima in Israel. The Labor Party also has strong influence, and there are other smaller parties that have little or no shot at ruling the government outright, but which can and do wield influence by siding with one or the other of the larger parties in helping them to form a ruling government. The recent elections left no clear winner, but they did tilt towards the more conservative groups headed by Netanyahu. It is thus likely that he and Likud will ultimately come to power as the various groups negotiate their particular roles in the government. The importance of Israel to Americans is many-fold, but there are three vital reasons that we need to support a strong, stable Israel. First there is the issue of Israel's vital presence and example as a democracy in the Middle East in the midst of the many dictatorships and theocracies in that unstable region. Secondly is the issue of Israel's political plight as a microcosm of our own. The same problems plague the Israeli population as plague traditional America, an assault on values and basic principles that is led by an overtly liberal press and media. For a conservative government to emerge in that atmosphere should be comforting and encouraging to American conservatives and traditionalists. Finally, but most importantly, is the basic importance of Israel as the home of God's chosen people. The Jews were given this land by God Himself as is told in the Bible in Exodus 23:20-33 in which He proclaims "I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines (the Mediterranean Sea), and from the desert to the River (the Euphrates.)" While the new Israel that finally re-emerged into statehood during the 20th century does not stretch that far at this point, it should not be expected to give up any of its lands. God also said here that "I will be an enemy to your enemies and a foe to your foes." The vast majority of Americans have understood throughout our history that we have been a particularly blessed nation because of our Judeo-Christian foundation on and our continued belief in the one true God. We have risen to new levels of strength and power as a nation in large part thanks to this support of Israel, His chosen people. If you are among the vast majority of Americans who still claim to believe in God, and the clear majority who hold the Bible as the inspired Word of God, then you need to take His proclamations seriously. We need to always concern ourselves with the security of Israel and to ensure that we are prepared to help fight for its continued existence. For this very reason her political choices, which go to the very heart of that security, should be of vital interest to all Americans.