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What Happens Next?

The following is a transcript of Episode 70 of the For Heaven’s Sake Podcast. Note: This is a lightly edited transcript of a conversation, please excuse any errors. 

Donniel: Hi, my name is Daniel Hartman. I’m the president of the Shalom Hartman Institute, and this is For Heaven’s Sake, a podcast from the Hartman Institute’s iEngage Project. And I apologize for my voice. I just have bronchitis. Major support for For Heaven’s Sake comes from the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation. Our theme for today is now what? Where do we go? How are we feeling? 

In each edition of For Heaven’s Sake, Yossi Klein Halevi, senior research fellow at the Institute here in Jerusalem and myself discuss a current issue central to Israel in the Jewish world, and Elana Stein Hain, head of the Beit Midrash of SHI North America and senior fellow, explores how classical Jewish sources can enrich our understanding of the issue. And what an issue we have.

The dramatic events of the last days, and I don’t know if the word dramatic sufficiently describes them, but at any event, these events are happening with such a dizzying intensity and pace that eating for Israel. It feels almost too much to process. The firing of defense minister. Mass demonstrations. The strike of all workers in industry. Shutting down of the airport. All happening, major, major demonstrations, counter-demonstrations, spontaneous plans. 

And then ultimately, finally, the decision of the Prime Minister to postpone, delay the legislative process till the end of this current Knesset sitting to allow time for a negotiated solution. Or at least that’s what he says. 

What is happening here? Are we seeing the beginning of a coalition’s unraveling? Will Netanyahu once again manage to outwit his political eulogizers and emerge from this crisis just as he has so many in the past? If negotiations begin between the government and the oppositional traditional reform or not, if, when negotiations begin, what direction should these take? Where should the government concede? Where should the opposition? What’s a reasonable compromise? We’ve gotten used to demonstrating, like we know how to do it. But now, do we have to develop a new muscle? 

But before we talk about developing a new muscle in Israeli politics, there’s something, at least on a personal level that’s much more important to me right now.

And that is that Yossi Klein Halevi has to develop a muscle as a grandparent with a beautiful new granddaughter, Ella, living in Vancouver, where Yossi is right now. So before we talk about the muscles of the country, first of all, a huge, huge mazal tov to, for me and Elana, I’m sure joining in, and all our listeners.

And before we talk about how you feel about the future of the Jewish people, just how are you feeling?

Yossi: Well, first of all, thank you, beloved friends. I’m very grateful for, for you sharing in my family joy. It’s, I’ve come relatively late to the grandparent game as you know, Donniel and, and you were trying to prepare me for this and, and you said there’s really nothing that can compare to it. And it’s true, it’s pure joy. 

There’s no angst, there’s no anxiety. That you leave to the parents. And they’re doing a great job worrying and hovering and I just get to hold my granddaughter and bond and look into her eyes and not even wondering who she is, who she’s going to be, just being with her, and it’s an extraordinary experience.

Donniel: I, listen, it’s changed my life. Elana, I know it’ll change yours, im yirtzah hashem. And welcome to the club and, me and all the listeners we’re giving you now, just the biggest, biggest hug. You know, cause as, especially when life is so complicated, we need a place of where our hearts could expand. And so I’m, I couldn’t be happier right at this moment.

Elana: And on behalf of the hovering parenting class who give their parents grandchildren, your welcome.

Donniel: So I’m sure that we could continue to speak for a while about Ella, but somehow I have a feeling that our listeners, I think they’ve had enough.

Yossi: Wait, I haven’t even shown pictures yet. What do you mean?

Donniel:I, I know, I know, I know. So, but somehow, so listeners, a collective hug to Yossi and now Yossi, you go first. With all this that’s happening, you know, and we weren’t sure that the demonstrations would come, like, that we would win, or, where are you? What do you feel? Are you positive? Are you negative? 

We’ll talk about where we go from here shortly, but just your first gut feeling. Where do we find you today?

Yossi: So look, I have personally never felt so schizophrenic in my life. On the one hand, I am in ecstasy. Life couldn’t possibly be better, and I wake up in the morning and I, and my heart is, is, is open. And then I turn on the internet and I look at the news from Israel and I want to believe that this significant victory that we’ve just won is an indication of better things to come in Israel. And I believe that in the long term, something very significant has happened here. 

The center has arisen. We now have a militant center, which we’ve never had before. A center that’s prepared to stand up for liberal values, for our vision of a Jewish and Democratic Israel. Israeli society in the past was, we left the streets and the militant certainties to other sectors, but we also have a vision. And we’re not going to give that vision up. So in that sense, I’m very hopeful about this moment, something significant and irreversible has happened. 

In the short term, I am not at all optimistic. I don’t trust Netanyahu, that goes without saying. And even if I wanted to trust him, I think that the political constraints on him are so great, he is bound by fanatics, by ideologues, who are not capable of relenting. And on our side, do I believe that a prime minister who’s on trial for corruption has the right to tamper with the judicial system? 

The whole process for me is invalid at its source. And one last point here, Donniel, which is that there’s something not only schizophrenic in my own personal life, but there’s something schizophrenic about this situation. Because on the one hand, finally at our 75th year, we’re starting to face certain structural, deep structural problems in Israel. 

The absence of a constitution, judicial overreach, the need for judicial reform, all of these are legitimate issues. I believe that there should be more conservative judges in the court because that reflects the nature of Israeli demography. Israel is a right-leaning conservative country, and the court should reflect, at least to some extent, that demographic. 

But is this the government that we can trust for that delicate process? Four out of five of the heads of our coalition parties are either convicted felons or on trial for felony. This is the government that I have as a partner for constitutional innovation, for judicial reform. This process for me has no chance of succeeding, and I believe it’s just a matter of weeks before we’re all back on the streets.

Donniel: Yossi, could you do me a favor and not hold back?

Yossi: Believe me, Donniel, I, I’m just getting, don’t get me started.

Donniel: I’m seeing, I’m seeing here, you know, I wonder, Yossi, whether you and I disagree right now because of my temperament or because I feel obligated to do so. 

My whole training in the field of philosophy is to always give the other side their best argument. It’s just, it’s a methodology in life that when I meet an advocate, I wanna know what’s the best reading of who they are. 

Now, there are some people in this conflict that we’re facing whose basic defense is very tenuous. But when I come to a certain reality, it’s like, what’s the best possible reading? And it also has to do with, I feel like the type of world that I wanna live in. I feel that it is so easy in the Middle East, so easy in Israel, to get into despair all the time.

And as I’ve told you, I never allow myself to get there. So I might be on this one completely wrong, Yossi. I’m not factually. It’s just I’m doing selective vision. Like why would I wanna bring up right now who’s the heads of the coalition? Like what do I need that for?

Yossi: Because we’re negotiating with them, Donniel. 

Donniel: But it doesn’t matter. But the fact is, they’re elected officials. At the end of the day, this process is not gonna be shaped either way, maybe with the exception of Netanyahu, in direct consequence to their past. And actually the one figure, the one responsible adult whose voice we actually wanted the conversation is Deri, who’s the one has a wisdom and a larger vision of the wellbeing of the country. You know, the Deri who was furious when Gallant was fired because, you know, he’s an adult. Like, it’s interesting. 

So I don’t wanna load what the problems are. Like, where am I right now? I feel like the difficulty is how do I shift from fighting to waiting? Like how do I shift from action to hopeful suspension? See, I also live by the fact that we could create self-fulfilling prophecies. You know how so often with Israelis and Palestinians, we did that, we gave up in advance. 

I refuse to give up on the right wing. I know that there’s real dangers going on here. And I, by the way, for our podcast, I wanna give up on the left-wing, right-wing, cause those categories are irrelevant when it comes to the reform. It’s not left-wing, right-wing. Those are just stupid distinctions at this moment. As if the right wing is in any way less committed to liberal values than a left-wing position is. There might be ultra-nationalist positions, but that’s not right. You could have left who are just as anti-democratic.

But at this moment, there was a move in which core values, liberal values were at the forefront of Israel’s conversation, and we won. I’ve said this in the past and people said, oh, you’re wrong. No. Could I just for the record, say I told you. It just make me feel better. I told you, I told you we won. Or at least the first stage. Yossi now says we didn’t win anything because just wait. You’ll see. 

But at least at the first stage, the reform has been suspended. So I know how to push, but now I don’t wanna go back home and just stay and wait. There’s this middle place of sustaining my activist spirit but hoping and allowing for good healing force for forces to emerge in the country. And I wanna believe that it’s possible. 

You see, Yossi, do you know what? I’ll give you an example. Should I tell you what gives me the most hope? Do you know why Netanyahu, in my read, ultimately did this? Suspended? It wasn’t just the demonstrators alone. It wasn’t just the opposition.

One of the biggest shifts that took place is that Netanyahu is losing his base, his base. Look at the latest polls, have Netanyahu’s party down to what, 24, current coalition down to 54, losing 10 seats. Almost all of them going to Gantz. So I think part of what we’re seeing, and it’s about what you said, that there’s a realignment and a creation of, you used the word militant. I like the word passionate center. 

I think Netanyahu knew, and Levin said it himself, that if he brought this up for a vote, it wouldn’t have passed. So there’s been a shift. The question is whether this shift could lead us to a negotiated compromise. That’s, that we’ll talk about some more, but are they gonna compromise or are we just gonna pull back to start fighting again and whether, what position we’re gonna be at that moment. So I wanna be cautiously optimistic, Yossi, but I don’t know how to shift. And there’ll be these four or five months where we’ll have to see what’s gonna happen. Do you wanna respond?

Yossi: Yeah, of course I wanna respond. 

Donniel: Please, I could see. I want you, I want you to respond before Elana, cause I want your voice to be heard.

Yossi: Well, you know, it’s interesting Donniel, because you began by saying maybe it’s a question of difference in temperament between us. And this is a recurring theme of our friendship and our conversations. Our disagreements are in part the result of you being the son of David Hartman and me being the son of Zolly Klein, a Holocaust survivor. And there are consequences that play out through our lives that reverberate. 

And so yes, there is a tendency on my part for wariness. And there’s a tendency on your part hope, to see the expansive possibilities.

Donniel: Just for the record, one of my biggest rebellions against my father is my perennial optimism.

Yossi: Oh, really?

Donniel: Oh, Absolutely. Absolutely.

Yossi: And look, compared to my father, I’m very optimistic, so.

Look there are two pitfalls here. One is what you are laying out, which is the self-defeating nature of pessimism. The other pitfall is the self-delusion of unwarranted optimism, and how do we navigate between these two dangers.

When I think about what’s going on inside Netanyahu’s inner circle, there’s no doubt in my mind that they’re talking about divide and conquer. How do we use this pause, not to try to reach a fair compromise with the opposition that everyone can live with, but how do we screw the opposition?

And the difference, Donniel, and how you and I are reading

Donniel: Just for the record, are you allowed to use that word?

Yossi: Yeah. Yeah.

Donniel: Okay. I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know if that was on, What was it? Carlin had a list of words you’re not allowed to use. So what Yossi meant,

Yossi: Yeah, that was 40 years ago. The culture has shifted.

Donniel: What Yossi meant to say was to, was to potentially undermine some of their inherent wishes. That’s what he meant.

Yossi: Yeah. I mean, what, what I think the government is doing is buying time and hoping that there will be lots of people on our side, people of goodwill who will naively take the bait, will tread water, they’re already planning their fallback, their default position.

Donniel: I hear you. Got you. Yossi, let’s now, if we can, I wanted to give you that. I wanna bring Elana in, cause where does all of this hit you? Where are you?

Elana: So I’m actually, physically, I’m sitting in Montreal. This is basically our Canadian episode. And it’s very interesting to me. There’s something I’m hearing that’s a bit of a shift from the concern about the judicial overhaul to the concern about violence among Israelis. And I think part of that is catalyzed by the supporters of the judicial overhaul coming out and having a counter-protest.

And that is sort of like, wait a second, there’s another side. And what’s gonna happen when these two sides hit each other in the streets. And reading Netanyahu’s remark about the pause, he’s really fueling that to suggest there’s another side that’s trying to tear the baby apart instead of saying, Hey, you both care about the baby, right, he used the version of Solomon with the two women and one wants to cut the baby in two, and the other says, just leave the baby whole.

He’s spewing that rhetoric. So I would say that sitting here, part of what a lot of people who are watching from afar and caring about is, is there gonna be violence here among Jews in the streets against each other?

Donniel: You know, that example quoting what Netanyahu said was, I’ll just tell our listeners, was that, there’s a debate as to who’s the mother of the child. And they come to Solomon and Solomon says, since I can’t resolve it, we’re gonna cut the baby in two. And one mother says, yes, no problem. Cut the baby in two. And the other one says, no, don’t cut the baby. If this is it, give it to the other one. And Solomon says, well, if that’s the case, you’re the mother. 

Now, what Netanya therefore implied was that my side, who are demonstrating we wanna cut the country in two, but he’s the one who’s deciding, now that type of rhetoric is exactly what legitimizes Yossi, Yossi’s smiling away right now because that’s just a verification.

Yossi: I’m just raising my eyebrows.

Donniel: I see it inside, you know, this whole, so let’s go back to you, let’s give you more of a chance, Yossi. How do you think this is gonna play out?

Yossi: You know, before, before getting to the scenarios, I just want to go back to the challenge that you put out before, which is really a values challenge. Now that there is the possibility of an alternative. I, of course, I believe we need to take it. And here I understand Avigdor Lieberman’s position, he’s not participating in the negotiations. He said that so long as the government is still proceeding with the legislation, even if they don’t intend to have a final vote on it, we should not be negotiating.

And look, Herzog himself, the president, had said that the government needs to remove, in his language, this oppressive legislation. They didn’t remove it. The negotiations are happening and I think we have no choice. We have to show up at the table. We have to be present, and we have to have the graciousness of victors because we did win this round. And that imposes a certain restraint on our part. 

And that’s where I agree with you. We need to show up and we need to show up in good faith, but not for a moment, Donniel, to lower our guard and not for a moment to have backup positions, if and when this fails. 

Donniel: See that leads to a concern that I have. And this will maybe echo some of the things you were saying. I spent, as did all of you, I spent over a hundred hours studying every feature of this reform. It’s like, you know how Jews all became experts in nuclear fusion when we had Iran, now, like we’re all experts in reform. I know the five different principles and all the various issues.

But part of what made the demonstration clear is that it wasn’t a demonstration for, are you for the override or against the override? Do you feel that reasonableness is too extensive or not too extensive? There was a larger picture about the ability of Israel to pursue its core commitment to liberal human rights, which the Supreme Court served as the core defense to, and the demonstrations were able to simplify this larger cost. And the great failure of the coalition is that they weren’t able to articulate a clear cause that required all facets of the negotiation. It was too complicated. It was a bunch of very intelligent individual changes that, this one follows the English system, this one follows the Canadian system, this one follows the American system.

And then when it came to marketing, the idea that I want a more diverse Supreme Court, that doesn’t tell you why you need an override cost. That speaks about controlling the electoral process of the judges. And even then, why should a government made up all of men be the one that I trust to create diversity. Who said that putting the power in the hands of the government is what gives you a possibility to have a more diverse court? Maybe all it does is create the possibility as my colleague who will be unmentioned right now, but knows that I’m speaking of him, that our colleague says, all that it does is it ensures that the government will control the Supreme Court, but not create diversity in the Supreme Court. 

So all, all the issues, they didn’t have a good cause. And when they pushed it also with such arrogance and their weakest link was the override clause. People said, you’re not improving the judiciary, we’re threatening the democracy of Israel. 

So we had a clear place to stand. Now let’s say we’re gonna negotiate and the president already set forth serious compromises which give into some of the very legitimate concerns of those who were for judicial reform. Limiting the reasonableness clause. Guaranteeing that the Supreme Court, if it overrides a Knesset law, could only override a Knesset law if there is a special majority and not just like 11 members or 15 members. 

There were things that were imminently reasonable and the scholars and the academics working with the president came up with compromises, many of which legitemized the position of those who are for the reform on at least two out of the five issues that we’re talking about.

My concern is that they’re gonna reach agreement and the only disagreement they’re gonna be left with is on one issue. Who picks the Supreme Court justices? And there it’s gonna be much harder, even though the implication could be dramatic, it’s gonna be much harder to galvanize and the other side, it’s going to shift the ideological tone of the debate where the ideology is going, in to many, ways be zapped out of the committed center.

Because it’s not so clear. It’s not always, not every single part of the legislation is the end of democracy and how we readjust and what happens then is of great concern to me because if you have one of those clauses, which again, even if it’s not the whole package, seriously limits the ability of a Supreme Court to override the Knesset, not because you don’t give them the ability, but because of the nature of the court. That’s a harder battle to fight. 

And it could be that right now, the shifting of the front lines, down to June when we’re gonna have to talk again, might create a big shift and the consequences could be very dramatic for the issues that we’re facing.

Yossi: So Donniel, I disagree with you that the override was always the greatest threat. I think it was clear from the beginning that that was an opening position, everyone knew they would back down from a simple majority for the override. They would offer, instead of a 61 Knesset majority, 64 or 65, that would be their compromise. 

To my mind, the greatest threat to democracy is actually in selecting the judges. And I’ll give you an example. The government is insisting on the right to select two of the judges and

Donniel: Let’s just explain to our audience for a second for those who don’t have a third PhD on this issue. In Israel, you sit on the Supreme Court till the age of 70, and it normally happens that every four or five years, four or five people are rotated off and the one who sits as the chief justice of the Supreme Court is a position given on rotation to whoever’s most senior at the time.

Now Yossi, please continue.

Yossi: So it just so happens that coming up next year for selection, is that one of the two Supreme Court justices will be the chief of the court. Netanyahu’s entire goal here is to control who the next head of the court will be for a simple reason. Because that person will determine the makeup of his court, of his trial, whether his trial continues.

And here, we’re already beginning to hear the potential candidates. The Justice Minister’s favorite candidate is set to be a legal authority who opposes Netanyahu’s trial, who believes that there is no valid legal basis for continuing the trial. If he becomes the chief justice, and this is someone who, from what I can see, is not among the leading jurists in the state of Israel, and whose greatest qualification will be his opposition to continuing Netanyahu’s trial. 

You know what, even if it’s not true, even if that’s just my fear, it will so disqualify, so discredit the court for a large part of this, of this population. We’re looking at the collapse of the credibility of justice in Israel.

Donniel: Yossi, I’m not disagreeing with you. I don’t wanna get into too many details, but it’s interesting, under the President’s solution, there is a veto each time of one candidate also,

Yossi: Netanyahu will never agree with that. This is the heart of the

Donniel: Yossi, Yossi, I agree with you.

Yossi: This is why he’s, Donniel, this is why he’s taken us

Donniel: Yossi. Hold now. Let me stop a second. I wanna, now

Yossi: To the abyss. Why did he do it? Why did he risk everything?

Donniel: I’m not saying you’re not right, but I’m saying when we have to talk about this, about. is there a veto, who’s the person, it’s very different than a larger fight for the future democracy of Israel. And this precisely, when you get to that point, it’s gonna be a much harder place to stand without disagreeing about your point.

Yossi: Okay, so this is where, this is exactly what Netanyahu is counting on.

Donniel: So he did well.

Yossi: It’s not, it’s, oh, I think he did well. I don’t think we had a choice but to show up, but this was a maneuver. And what this means, what this means, Donniel, is that, and you are right. You are right. I start losing myself when we have to talk about the intricacies.

Donniel: Anybody jogging right now just fell over a stone.

Yossi: Yes. And yet this is the heart of the issue. Who is going to be the next head of the Supreme Court?

Donniel: That’s a tough one, but I hear you. Let’s take, Yossi, a short break and then I want to hear Elana, what are some of your meta thoughts about this?

Elana: Okay, so I wanna talk about the constraints of politics on the human conscience. And look, politics is a power game. It is not a conscience game. And yet this protest movement is trying to bring up aspects of conscience using power to do so, but trying to bring up aspects of conscience.

And I’m thinking a lot about a biblical concept that actually, now that we just started on Shabbat morning reading from the book of Leviticus, from Vayikra, is something that people probably gloss over people often it’s hard for them to penetrate the verses that are about sacrifice. 

But there is one sacrifice that shows up in the book of Vayikra, in the book of Leviticus that is very apt for this moment. And it is called, I’m gonna say in English, it’s called like, the in limbo guilt offering in Hebrew. It’s called asham talui. And the in limbo guilt offering is essentially as follows. And then I’ll, I’ll give you some rabbinic glosses on what’s going on. But you can find it in Leviticus chapter five, verses 17 to 19.

But it’s basically, you know, if I have two pieces of food in front of me, and I think that they’re both things that I’m allowed to eat by Jewish law and I eat one of them. And then later I found out that actually one of them was something that was severely forbidden and I’m not really sure which one I ate, so I’m not sure if I sinned or if I didn’t, there’s a sacrifice for that. 

Meaning don’t wait until you’re completely sure that you messed up and don’t completely absolve yourself because you don’t know that you fully messed up. There’s a sacrifice in Jewish law for when you’re not sure if you made a mistake, and I wanna look at what the rabbis say about that sacrifice, the asham talui, the in limbo sacrifice. 

And I’m looking right now at the Talmud, the Babylonian Talmud in Keritot, 23B and there’s a mishna, and you know, this is the way that the rabbis talk. They take a legal moment and they pack so much philosophy into it. So bear with me if you’re jogging for a legal moment, but it’s, it’s worth it. It’s, this is how the rabbis work. 

The Mishna records the following argument. Let’s say a person brought this in limbo offering. They haven’t sacrificed it yet, but they basically said, I’m gonna use this animal as the offering because I’m in limbo. I’m not sure, maybe I did something wrong, you know? And then they find out that they didn’t do anything wrong. What happens to that animal? Okay, so it goes like this. The mission says one who brings, or at least sanctifies, or it seems, separates an in limbo guilt offering. And then they find out, nah, I didn’t do anything wrong. What happens to the animal? 

So one side says, if the animal hasn’t been slaughtered, the animal goes back into circulation. It’s totally mundane. Not a problem. That’s Rabbi Meir The sages say though, no, no, no. That animal is sacred. Even if you found out that you were fine, that animal is sacred. Can’t go back into circulation. And what the Talmud does with this is it says, what, what’s their argument about? 

Why does Rabbi Meir think that if you separated this animal that you thought you did something wrong, you weren’t sure, and then you found out you’re fine, that okay, the animal just goes back, it’s fine, it’s mundane, nothing happened, and the sages want you to say, no, this is, it’s still sacred. So what’s the argument, says the Talmud, between Rabbi Meir and the sages?

It’s really a question of whether a person who originally thought they might have done something wrong, that they have such pangs of conscience that essentially they’re saying, this animal is sacred even if I didn’t do anything wrong. Pangs of conscience for maybe doing something wrong. Find me pangs of conscience for maybe doing something wrong in politics because that’s not what’s happening here. 

And I’m more with Yossi on that. And I think, Donniel, you would agree with me that that’s not what’s happening here. This is not pangs of conscience. This is political strategizing. Whether it’s going to redound well for people or not, we have to notice, and I’m sorry, it’s the job of the prophet to the king. It’s the job of religion. It’s the job of Torah to say what are things that politics don’t do, and they don’t give you pangs of conscience. 

And the idea of being able to just push something through without having any sense of maybe we’re making a mistake, that’s a real problem. I wanna throw one more thing at you.

Now this, it goes too far, but I still think it’s a powerful example. We have a Mishna in Keritot, same tractate, six three. Rabbi Eliezer says a person can volunteer to bring an in-limbo guilt offering every single day and at any time they choose, even if they don’t think they sin at all, cause they’re just not even sure. And you know what that’s called? It’s called a Guilt offering of the Pious. 

And furthermore, they said about Baba ben Buti, that every day Baba ben Buti did too many things wrong with a name like that? He didn’t do too many things wrong. He used to give an in limbo guilt offering every day except for the day after Yom Kippur, just for one day. And he said, Ugh, I wish if they would only let me bring a guilt offering even the day after Yom Kippur, I would do that too. And they said, no, wait till you really are not sure. 

And honestly, I know that that’s too far. It’s not that we should be walking around every day thinking we did something wrong, but we are so far from any sense of maybe I messed up and being able to experience, that’s what the limbo moment is supposed to be. The limbo moment is not supposed to be, let’s wait until we can calm things down and then do, the limbo moment has to be looking inward and asking, did we make mistakes? And if so, how do we rectify them? 

And this is not gonna be popular, I don’t think that’s only gonna be on the side of Netanyahu. I think Gantz, and I think Lapid also have to ask themselves, are there things we need to do differently in order to get where we want to go? And I don’t know the answer to that. And it’s very weighted, meaning Netanyahu has way, way, way more. But everybody has to turn and say, now where do we want to go? That’s what I think.

Donniel: So first I love the idea of of of the in limbo guilt offering and, and what, what was the term you used that, that it creates a pang of conscience?

Elana: Yes.

Donniel: That idea, and it’s true, I love pangs of conscience and whether politicians will have them or not is gonna be critical. I really want to conclude right now with my own opinion, but before I do so, Yossi, I just feel existentially that there’s something that you wanna say and I wanna give you the ability to say it before I end on my optimistic note.

Yossi: I began by speaking about my emotional schizophrenia. So let me end with an ideological schizophrenia. On the one hand, I love Elana’s Torah. I’ve tried to live my Israeli civic commitment in the light of elu v’elu divrei elohim chaim, both these and these are the words of the living God. I’ve always tried to listen across the political spectrum. I believe that proponents of judicial reform have a strong case. 

But in this particular instance, I don’t believe we’re looking at two equal sides or one side or both sides that need to examine themselves. We have a government of scoundrels that

Donniel: Yossi, you don’t have to go through all those details again.

Yossi: I, I, I, I. But this is, you know, this is

Elana: And also to be clear, I’m not looking at equal sides.

Yossi: But the schizophrenia that I feel is that on the one hand, yes, we all have to look at ourselves. We all need to stand before the mirror. On the other hand, there are moments where you must have absolute clarity, and that’s what I loved about these last few months on the streets. And I don’t want to lose that in a process of negotiations that may be nothing but a smoke screen.

Donniel: Thank you. Last word from me is that I hear you, but we were on, on the abyss. Let’s celebrate a moment. And instead of being a cataclysmic moment, it’s a moment with the potential for transformation and growth. 

I know that some of the people, and Elana, it’s a serious question that some of those who are disagreeing don’t necessarily have within them the possibility of that level of reflection and aspiration. But I think it’s our job to also put it on the table, put it there, hope for it. My fear is, is that if we get disappointed, we all have to show up again. We all have to heed the call and we’re gonna have to recreate a coalition which has created a unique moment in Israeli society. 

But it’s okay to breathe a sigh of relief and it’s okay to have some hope. Let’s see.

Yossi: Especially before Pesach.

Donniel: It’s okay. Period.

Yossi: Yes. Okay. I’ll go with you on that.

Donniel: For Heaven’s Sake, is a product of the Shalom Hartman Institute. It was produced by David Zvi Kalman with support from Michal Taylor. It was edited by Gareth Hobbes at Silver Sound NYC. Our production manner is M. Louis Gordon. Maital Friedman is our vice president of communication and creative, and our music was provided by Socalled. 

Major funding for For Heaven’s Sake is provided by the Diane and Guilford Glazer Foundation of Los Angeles because of our shared commitment to strengthen the connection between Jews in North America and let me tell you, that connection is more powerful than before.

Transcripts of our show are now available on our website, typically a week after it episode airs. To find them and to learn more about the Shalom Hartman Institute, visit us online at We wanna know what you think about the show, you can rate and review us on iTunes to help more people discover the show. You can also write to us at [email protected]. Subscribe to our show everywhere else podcasts are available. See you in two weeks and be well my friends.

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The End of Policy Substance in Israel Politics