It is natural for us, as individuals and as a sector, to take care first of our own worries and then those of others. We have shown that we know how to struggle for our rights as religious Zionists in all walks of life. As long as the span of opinions among us was relatively limited and the internal disputes were not serious enough to cause separations and divisions, it was possible to hold parliamentary and public debates where our party presented a single unified front. Even though we were a clear minority, we succeeded in having the religious Zionist institutions appear as a unified force. Even though we were always a minority, we were able to guarantee that the religious Zionist enterprises in most walks of life received all of the rights that were available to all the citizens of the country. Moreover, we have become a significant factor in the life of the country, one that is listened to and taken into consideration. We have managed to establish the relationship between religion and the state in a way that is close as possible to our outlook, although it is still far from perfect.
Today the situation has changed. The marginal groups among us have moved further apart, the disputes have become more serious, and we have even seen examples of mutual hostility. There is almost no subject left where the different segments of religious Zionism can speak authoritatively with a single voice. A good friend said to me that no religious Zionist sector exists any more, and all that is left is people who are religious Zionists. The divisions and the disputes go across the board in all directions. Today there is no single religious Zionist framework that can include the entire range of its opinions – not a school, a yeshiva, a youth movement, a synagogue, a settlement, a rabbinical organization, a party, and so on. Under such circumstances, the sector has two major problems for which it pays dearly.
First of all, a sector which is dispersed and divided, with various forces that pull in different and contrary directions, will find it very difficult to make any achievements. Why should anybody listen to one internal group and not another? What do you want, that I should get close to one group and be soundly scolded by another? There are also some people who will take advantage of the situation to try to perform manipulations against the existing sector and thereby strengthen other groups which oppose religious Zionism.
In addition, there is a second problem, which is much more serious. The vision of religious Zionism sees its main mission as an attempt to influence the entire nation and to establish a Jewish character for the State of Israel as a whole. We must always think in terms of the best path to take so that Israel will be run according to our value system in all walks of life. The founders of our sector had many successes in their time, because we were united at the time and spoke in single voice. We can credit that era, until about 25 years ago, with our great achievements in the life of the country, even though we did not manage to achieve all of our goals.
The way things are today, is there any other way to accomplish a goal than by political coercion? We are well aware that what is achieved by political force can also be cancelled through political activity. To achieve something politically requires a broad consensus among the people. Just look at what happened to the Lapid Laws – forced drafting of Chareidim and a decrease in funding for yeshivot. They were passed in the face of harsh controversy, and they were rescinded within two years, when the coalition was replaced. With all due respect to legislation (and I should have respect – I proposed 73 laws that were passed in the Knesset!), new laws might not last very long if public opinion and the national spirit object to them. As we know, it is impossible to force the public to enforce a law which it is too difficult for it to accept.
A National Cultural Challenge
If we can learn to transform problems into a challenge, perhaps we may achieve more in spite of our own internal problems. Let us demand from all the diverse groups within our sector to make a public test of their ability to convince the public that their religious Zionist ideas are the best ones, and that in this way we will best be able to influence the Israeli public to expand the Jewish character of the State of Israel. Instead of internal struggles about who is right, we would do much better to follow a wise path and see what approach has the best chance of leading to a Jewish character for the Jewish state. Instead of wasting our efforts and excessive energy on internal disputes, we would be much better off to agree to a “truce” and to enlist all of our strength on the real front, which is the Jewish character of the State of Israel. We cannot succeed through our own internal struggles, rather we must influence the entire Israeli culture, through persuasion and conviction. I firmly believe that turning our efforts in this direction can weaken the internal strife in our sector and even lead to a closer approach between diverse groups.
Just as in a war the fighters are comrades in spite of the many diverse and contrary viewponts, so in struggles for cultural and moral values a fighting comradeship can be formed. For us, this can be based on an exalted common goal: The values of religious Zionism within the State of Israel.