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Op-Eds: The cost of Avigdor Liberman

The people in Israel are paying a cost in shekels caused by Avigdor Liberman and his YIsrael Beyteinu party that must be taken into account by every Israeli citizen who calculates which way he intends to vote in a few weeks time.

First and foremost he is the one person who is most responsible for the cost of the third election.  That money could have been used to build hospitals, schools and assist the poor elderly, including many elderly Russian immigrants. Billions of shekels have been and will be wasted, apart from the failure to form a stable government with the ability to tackle economic (and other myriad) challenges. There are also costs involved to business and working people when election days are held.

Liberman’s target voter audience has been mostly olim from Russia who are being exposed to his party’s diatribe labelling the million plus hareidi Jews living in Israel as a drain on the economy. He is a force aiming to change the lifestyle of Israel in favor of those who choose not to keep Shabbat and our traditions. He has been using language and incendiary antisemitic tropes, particularly regarding low IDF participation.

What could be further from the truth?

  • Financially these allegations ignore that there are many hareidi families where the males work, whilst three-quarters of their wives hold full-time jobs. They pay taxes. Even for things of which they disapprove.
  • Millions of dollars come in from abroad to support hareidi men who are leaning full-time, with yeshivas being built, fortunes donated, apartments purchased for them and whole communities assisted by this funding.
  • The Shabbat issue is an ideological and relgiious one, but also has economic implications. Firstly, Shabbat is a heavenly gift to us and shows the world – and ourselves – that this is the longed for Jewish State.. But allowing public transport and opening of businesses on our day of rest would eventually force many people to work instead of having a family day, discriminate against the religious whose businesses would remain closed. They and other small businesses would face ruin as their larger competition opens, spoiling of the quality of our lives as well.
  • As for the IDF, apart from the fact that we have Netzach Yehuda; Nachal Hareidi and other religious battalions, who is to measure the value of numbers who are in active service and those who study Torah and pray to G-d for our security?
  • The advances in technology have proved that men are now being replaced by drones, by intelligence and new inventions.  Of course, the Bible points to many military successes by the few against the mighty, as we learn on Hanukkah. Do we really need that  many more soldiers? How can the IDF possibly absorb large numbers of haredi men?
  • But most important is the demographic contribution that the hareidi population provides.  Human capital may not be costed in shekels. Without this Jews would not be in the majority in their own land, a must if Israel is to remain a Jewish and democratic country.

And there is a cost that Liberman never talks about.  He prefers putting citizen against citizen, blaming one group for costing the country too much. He never talks about the cost of bringing into Israel large numbers of Russian olim, hundreds of thousands who were non-Jewish and many of whom were ill, elderly and not able to work.

Israeli citizenry willingly took this upon themselves despite the cost because Israel does not measure immigration in financial terms. No one got up and said that these immigrants are a burden the way Liberman does about the observant Jews who have ensured Judaism’s survival through the ages and about those settling the historic land of Israel for ideological reasons (whom he arrogantly labels messianics).  Let’s take a look at the cost of immigration:

  • The cost of flights
  • The cost of settlement – beginning with a payment at the airport and continuing to subsidies costing tens of thousands of shekels per family.
  • Cost of health plans and healthcare for every Russian immigrant, including the elderly and those who came with previous conditions
  • Cost of processing by government departments
  • Cost of ulpan language courses
  • Rental subsidies.

At least a quarter of these non-Jewish olim are using and used the generosity of Israel as a mere stopover before leaving to immigrate to other countries.  Many of the first generation of these migrants who choose the good life in Israel are not assimilating into Israeli society. Their children are often sent to pre-schools where the only language of instruction is Russian. Their tables feature “white meat” (the Hebrew expression for pork) and their custom of Xmas trees continues.  This second generation of children who are Israeli but not Jewish grow up in our schools and may end up marrying our children. That, too, is a price Israel is paying.

Liberman spent his formative years in Russia.  His language reflects his background. Slamming the hareidi population does not make him a “king-maker.”  The opposite. His actions have cost each and every citizen not only stability and peace of mind that there is a government doing its job, but actions that smell of an outsider intent on destroying the Jewish nature of Israel and its social fabric.

Analysing the million immigrants who came from Russia should lead to the same result as that of the Mizrachi Jews who came decades earlier, suffered greatly from prejudice on the part of some, but became a vibrant part of the Israeli mainstream population, religious, traditional and secular alike.

Many adults from Russian aliyah of the eighties are now deceased. Many have left the country. However, the second generation whose Jewish parents came from Russia grew up in Israel, enjoy the Israeli lifestyle and do not naturally read the online Russian news or newspapers. They should take a stance against Liberman and his party as they understand that outside forces are not what is good for Israel.

Liberman’s push to join this assimilatory trajectory will fail as this whole young generation will be educated here and thus more concerned with values, morality and stability, seeking out goodness and kindness, a way of life that is closer to Judaism in its essence.

It will be this generation of voters, the internet generation who can clearly see the cost of Liberman and his party’s havoc, the purposeful division that is being wreaked upon Israel and its society  As Abraham Lincoln is attributed to have said: “You can fool all of the people some the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.”

Original: by Leonie Ben-Simon, 29/12/19, Arutz Sheva, Israel National News