Wednesday, Jul 24, 2024

My Take on the News


Supreme Court Ruling Triggers Wave of Incitement

Ever since the Supreme Court released its ruling on the draft for bnei yeshivos, there has been a fierce wave of incitement against the yeshiva community. I have read a plethora of articles that appeared in the press since the court ruling, both in chareidi newspapers and in the secular media, and I believe that many of the writers did not fully understand or examine the court’s ruling. Many of these articles make it sound as if the Supreme Court’s ruling was an unprecedented decision, a landmark verdict of historic impact. This, however, is not true, although it is still a grave act of malice. The judges ruled that in the absence of a law that provides for the possibility of draft deferrals, a chareidi youth and a secular youth must be treated equally—that is, draft orders must be issued to both populations equally. But I emphasize that they did not call for all chareidi bochurim to be drafted under any circumstances; the ruling was limited to a situation in which a law hasn’t been passed to permit them to defer the draft. And that makes it not nearly as groundbreaking as some seem to believe.

From the judges’ perspective, this seems to have been the only viable verdict. That is why many commentators and journalists wrote that the ruling was expected all along. It was even more predictable since the court had already issued an interim injunction to the same effect. Their decision last week merely stated that the previous temporary order would now become permanent. The previous order even specified that there is no legal basis for providing funding for a talmid in a yeshiva who is required to enlist in the army and fails to do so; the court’s decision last week merely gave a stamp of finality to that provision.

The only thing that the judges could have done, yet refused to do, was to validate the government’s administrative decision to refrain from drafting yeshiva bochurim while a new draft law is in the process of being passed. The judges ruled that this decision is unconstitutional, which seems to be an unjustified leap of logic. If the government of this country decided to refrain from the drafting yeshiva bochurim for the time being, why shouldn’t that be within its authority? But the judges made their decision, and there is nothing that anyone can do to change it.

The obvious next step in response to the court’s ruling is to advance the draft law that has already been debated in the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, about which I wrote at length last week. This is the law, as you may recall, that was initially submitted in the previous Knesset, and that was resurrected in the current Knesset with a legal device known as the rule of continuity. At this time, no one knows exactly when the committee will finish discussing the bill or what form it will take when those discussions have ended. There are also some rebellious elements within the Likud party who are taking advantage of the situation to pursue their own agendas. Even Yuli Edelstein, chairman of the committee handling the bill, has announced that he will not pass any law that isn’t subject to a consensus. (That statement alone is fairly vague and meaningless. Exactly whom does Edelstein feel compelled to include in that consensus? The opposition? The rebels in the Likud? The chareidim? The Supreme Court? He surely does not feel that he can get all of them to agree on a single version of the bill.) It should also be noted that the chareidi political representatives are not participating in the discussions over the bill.

It must be made clear that the court did not discount the possibility of passing a draft law altogether. Once the law is passed, the judges will agree that there is no legal need to draft all bnei yeshivos in Israel; the government will be bound only by the terms of the law and the targets for the draft that it specifies. But there is a different problem: The Supreme Court has already struck down three separate versions of a draft law, and there is no guarantee that they will be satisfied with the next version, even if the chareidim consider the current bill worse than any of the previous versions. In other words, the law might provide a temporary reprieve of sorts, but it might not be a permanent solution.

The bottom line, though, is that while many journalists wrote that the Supreme Court is requiring the conscription of all bnei yeshivos, they are mistaken. Not only that, they are also misleading their readers. The court said only that the bnei yeshivos must be drafted as long as there is no law allowing them to defer the draft. We can certainly hope that such a law will be passed, and that its terms will be reasonable.

Challenging the Army on the Arab Draft

One of the most outrageous aspects of the uproar over yeshiva bochurim is that no one has uttered a word about the fact that Arab youths likewise do not serve in the IDF, and that the army doesn’t even bother sending them draft orders. For some reason, all the enemies of religion who decry the draft deferrals for yeshiva bochurim are unperturbed by the Arabs’ freedom from the draft. Nor do the judges of the Supreme Court seem to be troubled by this inequality. In fact, Minister Dudi Amsalem petitioned the court not long ago to impose mandatory conscription on the Arab sector. The court responded by throwing out the case immediately; the judges reminded Amsalem that he is a minister in the government and insisted that if he has any problem with the issue, he should bring it up within the government rather than seeking the court’s intervention. This was a handy way of avoiding the subject.

On that note, let me share a secret with you, but please keep it between us…. One of the members of the Knesset (Simon Moshiashvili of the Shas party) has sent a parliamentary query to the Minister of Defense that aims to embarrass him and possibly complicate matters for him. The query is titled, “Israeli Citizens Who Do Not Receive Draft Orders at the Age of Conscription.” The main text reads, “In light of the controversy over the bnei yeshivos and all that we have heard about the manpower shortage and the obligation to draft every citizen of Israel, I would like to ask the following: Are there any sectors of the population, such as Muslims of Christians, to whom the army does not send draft orders? If the army does not send orders to them, what is the law, ordinance, or government decision that justifies that? How many Israeli citizens were not inducted into the army during the years 2020 through 2024 by virtue of the fact that the army decided not to send them draft orders? Are there any citizens who received draft orders but were not inducted and did not report for the draft without explaining themselves? If so, how many such cases were there during the years between 2020 and 2024?”

I have no doubt that this query will leave the defense ministry and the army in an uncomfortable bind. In all likelihood, there is no law, ordinance, or government decision of any kind that sanctions the IDF’s failure to send draft notices to Arabs. To make matters worse for them, the Supreme Court has already made it clear that nothing short of an actual law will suffice to permit blanket draft exemptions, which means that even if there is a government decision that calls for Arabs to be quietly released from the draft, the court should reject it outright. The response to this query promises to be interesting, and you can count on me to report it to you. Oh, and in case you are wondering why I asked you to keep it between us, that is because this was submitted as a direct parliamentary query, which calls for a response in writing that is sent to the questioner and is not publicized. So you may not hear about it anywhere else.

Anti-Semitic Cartoon in Makor Rishon

But I digress. The topic that I first began discussing was the dreadful wave of incitement against bnei yeshivos that has been sweeping through the country since the Supreme Court issued its verdict. True, the incitement began long ago, and bnei yeshivos have always been the targets of such campaigns, but the Supreme Court’s ruling has kicked the hate-spewing apparatus into higher gear. Of course, the leader of this trend is none other than Yair Lapid, a man who barely performed his own military service and who has been exposed as lying to the public about his experiences in the army. (Lapid has claimed to have been serving in a combat unit, where his supposed heroic actions in a particular incident led him to become unfit for combat duty and to be transferred to the military magazine Bamachaneh. However, this story seems to have been proven false.)

What is perhaps most saddening about the current campaign of incitement is that it has attracted portions of the national religious community as well. This is a phenomenon that did not take place in the past, certainly not on such a large scale and with such overt hostility. One of the most egregious violations of all accepted norms, as far as the chareidi community is concerned, was a political cartoon that appeared two weeks ago in the dati leumi publication Makor Rishon. This cartoon depicts a group of soldiers carrying a stretcher on which a yeshiva bochur sits, with the bochur telling them smugly, “Don’t worry, my friends. My learning is dedicated to his recovery [referring to a patient lying on the stretcher beside him] and to your success.”

This drew a fierce reaction from secular media personality Yinon Magal, who recently launched a campaign called “Adopt a Torah Learner.” Magal wrote, “If the caricature in Makor Rishon had shown a chareidi who isn’t learning Torah, I could have understood it. But they are criticizing a chareidi who learns Torah. This cartoon shows disdain for the power that the soldiers and the Jewish nation derive from Torah learning. But how can we fault Haaretz and Yediot Acharonot for that? In any event, it is a shame.”

Another right-wing media figure, Berale Crombie, was equally indignant. “What Makor Rishon did today was cross a red line,” he wrote. “There is a difference between criticizing chareidim who do not enlist and publishing an anti-Semitic caricature that depicts chareidim as leeches whom the soldiers must carry on their shoulders. I am sorry, but there is no difference between this caricature and Der Sturmer. It is a disgrace.”

Of course, many chareidim decried the caricature. Some of the criticism focused on the fact that the dati leumi community seems to believe that they will gain the support of the left if they join the opponents of the chareidim. They are mistaken about this. The leftists despise the religious community and refer to them with every term of disdain imaginable, despite the fact that many of the soldiers who were killed and wounded in this war were members of that community. Those leftists will embrace their dati leumi counterparts only as long as they serve them in their battle against the chareidim—and then they will throw them to the dogs.

Der Sturmer and The Marker

There is an old joke—a bit of black humor—about a Jew who was sitting on a public bench during the early days of the Nazi era and reading Der Sturmer, the Nazi publication filled with anti-Jewish propaganda. Another Jewish man spotted him reading the hateful rag and asked, “Aren’t you embarrassed to be seen with that? Why don’t you read one of our Jewish publications instead?”

The first man replied, “To be honest, when I read the Jewish publications, I am overwhelmed by sadness and distress. Every page contains stories about pogroms and murders, and our people’s situation seems bleak. But when I read Der Sturmer, I feel encouraged. In this newspaper, I can read about how the Jews have taken all the world’s money and are controlling the entire world!”

When I read The Marker, a well-known economic newspaper in Israel, I often feel that I am experiencing the same dubious pleasure as that fictitious man on the bench in Germany. Take last Monday’s issue, for instance, where the front page bore the headline, “Even Without Jobs, Shas Controls the Government.” An article on the fourth page reported, “There is a concern that the Ministry of Labor, which is controlled by Shas, will try to change the criteria for qualification [for subsidized day care] so that it will be sufficient for only the mother to be employed.” Another full-page article bore the title “Senior Treasury Officials Want to Draft Chareidim, But No One Is Dealing with the Issue That Will Block Every Attempt.” A few pages later, the obsessive focus on chareidim continues. “Don’t believe the crocodile tears,” the article reports. “Shas is close to an accomplishment that is a hundred times more important to it than the law concerning the rabbonim.” This is the newspaper’s lament over the bolstering of the Shas educational network.

As I said, the newspapers paint a rosy picture of chareidi prosperity and power.

The media’s obsessions with “chareidi money,” so to speak, reminds me of a story concerning the Ponovezher Rov. On one of his trips abroad, the rov delivered an extremely intricate and profound drosha that very few members of his audience managed to follow. Throughout his speech, however, one young man sitting at the back of the bais medrash nodded repeatedly. After the speech was over, this young man approached the rov and said with a smile, “Yasher koach, rebbi.”

“You understood the drosha?” the rov asked in surprise.

“Yes, I did,” the youth replied. “At least, I understood the basic point.”

“Which was what?” the Ponovezher Rov asked.

“That the rov needs money for his yeshiva,” the boy said.

“At least someone understood the drosha,” the rov replied with a smile.

In this case, the point is clear as well. This is part of the never-ending battle of Amalek against the Torah. The State of Israel and its dissolute Supreme Court are conspiring to steal the bread out of the mouths of the people who toil over the Torah throughout their days. It was MK Moshe Roth who managed to put it best during a Knesset discussion on the subject of police brutality, when he demanded, “Why don’t you just take Kalashnikovs, come to Bnei Brak, and start shooting people? That is what you want, isn’t it?”

The Real Solution: A Professional Army

The question of whether the IDF actually needs more soldiers is the subject of a heated dispute. Last week, I quoted the chiloni former government minister Chaim Ramon, who asserted that there is no truth to the claims that the army is suffering from a lack of manpower. This week, I received a phone call from a baal teshuvah in Kiryat Sefer who is a former member of an elite army brigade. This man insisted that there is only one solution to the draft problem: canceling the draft altogether and turning the IDF into a professional army. “Today, thousands of people who are not needed are being drafted every year, and the army has to look for ways to keep them busy,” he said. “We need a professional army, which will recruit only the people who are necessary and will invest resources only in them.”

We had a very long conversation, which I am condensing in these paragraphs to the main points. My interlocutor has been a baal teshuvah for many years, but it was very clear to me that he hasn’t lost his intimate understanding of the army. His ideas were cogent and systematically developed. The purpose of his call was to ask me to arrange for him to meet with a cabinet minister or some other government official. He is confident that his idea can be put into action and can lead to the creation of the small, smart army that has been proposed on numerous occasions. Of course, he gave me his name and contact information, but I am not at liberty to disclose it to the public. As you can probably imagine, I asked for permission to interview him for an article, but he demurred. He has no interest in publicity; his goal is only to provide a solution where one is sorely needed. The only thing I can reveal is one small piece of his life story: After he became a baal teshuvah, he learned in the yeshiva of Kiryat Malachi.

The caller pointed out that all the Yamam soldiers—those who were involved in the rescue operations to free the hostages—are in their thirties or older. This, he said, is for good reason. The army invested resources in training these men and honing their skills, and they were worth the investment. “Who needs thousands of idlers in uniform?” he asked rhetorically.

This is the real answer to the Supreme Court’s ruling. The judges touted equality as the reason for their decision, but there is no real equality in the army even now. The IDF is plagued by hidden unemployment; there are plenty of soldiers in uniform who are not actually serving at all. And that is to say nothing of the draft dodgers of Tel Aviv, who evade army service altogether with complete impunity. The judges insist that Israel is at war and the army needs soldiers, but that claim has already been debunked. As Chaim Ramon pointed out, quoting an official report prepared by the Knesset Research and Information Center, only 450 of the 4000 chareidim who signed up for the army since the beginning of the war were actually accepted (out of the 880 who were found fit to serve). Brigadier General Shai Taib, the head of the army’s Planning and Personnel Administration Brigade, also revealed this week that there are 40,000 combat soldiers who haven’t been called up for reserve duty since the beginning of the war. That certainly speaks volumes about the IDF’s current manpower needs.

Torah Learning Around the Clock

We all know that the world is sustained by the Torah and that its very existence hinges on Torah learning. To a frum Jew, this is even more obvious than the fact that the earth is round and rotates on its axis. But the earth’s rotation actually has spiritual significance as well. We were all taught at a young age that Hashem created the world with different time zones so that there would never be a single moment when Torah is not being learned. As the day winds down in Eretz Yisroel, it is still the middle of the morning in America. And when the Jews in America are retiring for the night, the Jews in Eretz Yisroel are getting up to go about their business. But what happens during the bein hasedorim break in the afternoon in Israel, when the Jews of America are just getting up for Shacharis? Is there anyone learning Torah at that time?

The answer is yes—and the botei medrash of the Mir yeshiva have a good deal to do with it.

I have written in the past about Rav Moshe Finkel’s chaburah in Mir. This group of yungeleit recently finished Maseches Eiruvin, after living and breathing the masechta and its intricacies for many months. They are currently learning Maseches Chullin, and they are once again spending their days and nights immersed in its sugyos. I recently learned about another outstanding chaburah, this one headed by Rav Yeruchom Finkel. This group of 56 yungeleit is currently learning Maseches Sukkah, like the rest of the yeshiva, albeit with a twist; they are learning the sugyos that aren’t typically studied, as well as the halachos that emerge from the masechta. Just try to ask them about the Supreme Court ruling, and they will not even know what you are talking about. But ask them about the halachos pertaining to an esrog that has lost its moisture, and then can talk for hours. They live in a world defined by Torah, where nothing else has any meaning.

I recently visited the Bais Yeshaya bais medrash of the Mir yeshiva, at the request of Rav Pinchos Halevi Lipschutz, editor of this newspaper. The elevator whisked me up to the fourth floor of the building, where I found Rav Yosef Elefant delivering a shiur to hundreds of English-speaking yungeleit. The entire scene was magnificent. I took the stairs to return to the ground floor, which gave me the opportunity to enjoy the sight of talmidim learning in various corners and corridors during the bein hasedorim break. I spotted one pair of chavrusos who were clearly decades apart in age; one of them looked about the age of my son, while the other was old enough to be my father. Most of the yungeleit were probably having lunch or napping somewhere, but these two—and others as well—remained at their shtenders even during the afternoon break. I was mesmerized as I watched them manning their posts with great dedication, doing their share to uphold the world. The Mir yeshiva is a place where Torah study never ceases.

This Sunday, I attended the annual Israeli dinner of the Mir yeshiva. The dinner, which was held in the Lago reception hall in Rishon Letzion (in memory of Rav Elchonon Aryeh ben Rav Avrohom Leventhal, a staunch supporter of the yeshiva), included a special program offering the attendees a glimpse into the inner workings of this massive empire of Torah. While I am not wealthy, I have a standing monthly donation to the yeshiva, which is the minimum that I can do to show appreciation where it is due. Due to the budget cuts inflicted by the justices of the Supreme Court—and, l’havdil, in response to the diligent calls from Rav Landesman and Rav Rosenthal, two hardworking members of the yeshiva’s staff—I have decided to push myself and increase my monthly donation. Bli neder, I will report to you on the dinner next week.

The Yudkin Family’s Battle

The next story is one that has been occupying the country’s attention for a while but that I haven’t yet had the opportunity to report about. One month ago, a soldier named Yisroel Yudkin was tragically killed. Yudkin was a chareidi soldier from a Lubavitch family that currently has four members in combat units. He was a grandson of Rav Zalman Yudkin zt”l, who was the subject of a column following his recent passing. The family asked the army to have the acronym Hy”d (for “Hashem yinkom damo—May Hashem avenge his blood”) engraved on Yisroel’s gravestone, but the army refused. It was soon revealed that many other families have made the same request and been turned down as well, but Yudkin family was not ready to back down. Mrs. Yudkin was interviewed by Channel 14, which was probably the only media outlet willing to give her an opportunity to speak, and the country was moved by her words. I won’t repeat everything she said, but I will tell you simply that she was extremely persuasive; even secular Israelis were swayed. Her sons, some of whom are still serving on the front lines, were interviewed by the media as well, and the country buzzed with discussion over the issue of those three words—“Hashem yinkom damo.” The army claimed that it could not change the standard wording on a military gravestone, and that all such stones must bear uniform inscriptions. This argument, however, has been disproven, as it was discovered that other families’ requests to add personal inscriptions to their loved ones’ gravestones were granted. For now, the fallen soldier’s grave does not have a headstone at all. Mrs. Yudkin insists that if the army remains recalcitrant, they will transfer her son’s remains from Mount Herzl to Har Hazeisim, where the family will be able to put up a gravestone with an inscription of their choice.

Last Wednesday, the issue was discussed in the Knesset and the family garnered widespread support. One of the speakers was Shimon Moshiashvili, who said, “Yesterday, I called Tuvia, the father of the deceased soldier. It was a very difficult and painful conversation. The father spoke from the depths of his heart. He has lost a child, and now he has to fight for the right to inscribe three letters—heh, yud, and dalet—on his son’s gravestone. When Tuvia received the dreaded news of his son’s death, he was returning from the United States, where he had been sitting shiva after losing his father. His wife, Tzipi, called him and said, ‘Two IDF officers came to our house, accompanied by a female officer.’ There was some discussion between the family and the officers, and the bereaved parents were told, ‘You have made the greatest sacrifice in the world; you will receive anything you want.’ Tuvia wanted to bury his son on Har Hazeisim, but the officers suggested Mount Herzl instead. The parents, who are Lubavitcher chassidim, agreed, with the understanding that the IDF would cooperate with them on providing a Jewish burial. To this day, the IDF and the Defense Ministry refuse to add the simple inscription ‘Hashem yinkom damo.’ The bereaved mother explained her request and begged for it; she told them that this is a Jewish concept everywhere in the world. Only in the State of Israel do the authorities prevent a fallen Jewish soldier from having an inscription on his gravestone calling for Hashem to avenge his death. Tuvia, the father, said to me yesterday, ‘We love Eretz Yisroel. We tried to enter into a partnership with the army, and we sent four sons to serve there, but that attempt failed. The army misled us.’ Tzipi said, ‘There is nothing for chareidim to do in the army; they don’t really need us.’”

Another speaker was MK Moshe Roth. “The most painful aspect of this subject is the ignorance,” he said. “There is ignorance in the upper echelons of the IDF and throughout the establishment, ignorance in education, ignorance in their approach, and ignorance that literally cuts to the core of the issue. The grandfather of the deceased soldier Yisroel was named Reb Zalman,” he added. “This grandfather, Reb Zalman, was a man whom I knew, who was imprisoned in Siberia. I first met him when I was a child in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. In my eyes, he was the paradigm of a Jew who models mesirus nefesh. Do you know why he was sent to Siberia? Because he had learned Torah with a child. For that, he was exiled to Siberia. The KGB tried to force him to inform on other Jews, but he refused to do so. They even cut off part of his finger, but he did not give in. That was Reb Zalman. They took away his sefer Tehillim, which he called ‘mein Tehillim’l.’ He fasted, and he declared a hunger strike; he went without food for an entire week until the KGB returned the Tehillim to him. He recited the entire sefer Tehillim every morning, and he sat in Siberia and learned Torah. This was a Yid who displayed genuine mesirus nefesh. And his grandson Yisroel, may Hashem avenge his blood, died al kiddush Hashem while defending Am Yisroel. Now, why do I say that this is ignorance? I don’t think that this decision is the product of malice, cruelty, or apathy; I think it is sheer ignorance. When we say ‘may Hashem avenge his blood,’ we are referring to the loftiest possible meaning of vengeance. We are human beings, and we do not have the ability to avenge a death. Other nations teach their children to take a life for a life, but our army is known as the Israel Defense Force. It is all about defending ourselves. All we want is to be able to live.”

Putting the Ball in a Committee’s Court

All of the speakers in the Knesset that day voiced their support for the family’s request and their absolute bewilderment at the stance adopted by the Ministry of Defense. Incidentally, the army was actually in favor of accepting the family’s request; it was the Defense Ministry that put up a fight.

It was especially moving to listen to MK Limor Har-Melech, who is herself a victim of terror. In the year 2003, Har-Melech and her husband, Shuly, were attacked by terrorists who fired on their car; he was murdered, and she was seriously injured. She was expecting a baby at the time, whose survival was a miracle. Of course, she encouraged the Yudkin family in their struggle.

The government’s response, on behalf of the Defense Ministry and the army, was not delivered by Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who was in America at that time. A different minister, Nir Barkat, read aloud a response that had been prepared for him. Realizing the direction that the response was taking, Barkat did not sound especially convinced of the words that he was reading aloud. “Before I read aloud the response from the defense minister, in my capacity as the minister on rotation, I would like to share my personal take on the challenge,” he said. “I remember that when I was the mayor of Yerushalayim, there was a request for a personalized tombstone to be placed on the grave of a soldier who had fallen…. We managed to come up with a way to soften the rules a bit, without breaking them or creating widespread ramifications throughout the country and without triggering opposition from Yad Labonim [the organization responsible for commemorating the deaths of fallen soldiers]. Therefore, I personally identify with everything that has been said. I think that we all understand that there needs to be some sort of correction here; we must be considerate of the family of Yisroel Yudkin, may Hashem avenge his blood, and of others as well. All of us, including myself—and I say this on behalf of the government and on behalf of us all—share the pain of the family and embrace them fervently. I believe that that is what the Minister of Defense wishes to do. I will now read his response. It is somewhat long, but I think that anyone who hears the nuances will understand that this is the path to a solution.”

I will spare you the full contents of the defense minister’s message, and I will skip to the main point. “The Minister of Defense has given instructions for this topic to be raised in the public committee for the commemoration of fallen soldiers,” Barkat read aloud. “Based on paragraph 12 of the law concerning military cemeteries, this committee possesses statutory authority to advise the defense minister regarding military burials and the commemoration of fallen soldiers and members of the security services.”

To put it in plainer terms, the matter will be discussed by a committee, which is the usual practice in Israel.

A Lesson from the Submarine Affair

The next topic yields a mussar haskel and demonstrates how Hashem laughs at the plans that human beings devise. Five years ago, the police opened an investigation into an episode that became known as the submarine affair. It seemed evident that Netanyahu was the main culprit in this case, which was added to the other criminal charges against him and was labeled Case 3000. The investigation was handled by Lahav 433, the branch of the police force that deals with all allegations of corruption within the government. It was alleged that Netanyahu had deliberately manipulated government tenders for the purchase of submarines during the years between 2009 and 2017 to satisfy his own personal interests. The scandal centers largely on two deals between Israel and the German manufacturer of the submarines, one of which was an agreement for the purchase of three submarines with a price tag of 1.5 billion euros, while the other was a deal for the purchase of ships with a value of 430 million euros. The investigation dealt with the suspicion that senior government officials and public servants asked for and accepted bribes to promote the deals between the State of Israel and the German firm. After the probe was concluded, the police announced that they had gathered enough evidence to bring serious criminal charges against several of the suspects. In 2021, criminal charges concerning the bribes were brought against seven of the individuals involved in the deal.

Netanyahu’s enemies had hoped that the affair would lead to another indictment against him as well, but those hopes were dashed. The police even decided to spare his close associates (and his brother-in-law) from indictment. The state witness recruited by the police to testify against Netanyahu failed to provide the goods that they were hoping for. In the end, the witness accused the police of threatening him.

At that point, the story seemed to have reached its end, although there were still a few people who repeatedly insisted that there had been a cover-up and that Netanyahu had escaped a criminal indictment by the skin of his teeth. The pressure to reopen the case came mainly from Moshe Yaalon, who had previously served as the minister of defense and before that as the chief of staff, and from Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid. These three men insisted that it was the most serious scandal in Israeli history and decried the lack of results from the investigation.

In November 2020, then-Defense Minister Benny Gantz, under pressure from his political allies, ordered an inquiry commission to be formed to probe the submarine deals. This committee was assigned to examine the issue without regard for the findings of the police. The attorney general at the time, however, limited the authority of the committee, and its members resigned. Yair Lapid then attempted to pass a law calling for the formation of another state commission of inquiry, but this effort was shot down in the Knesset. In July 2021, the Supreme Court rejected petitions calling for the formation of an official commission of inquiry, but the judges added in their verdict, “The picture concerning the decision-making process is very worrying, and the doubts should be given public expression of some kind.” This was a very clear hint to Netanyahu and sparked an uproar.

In January 2022, the government led by Naftoli Bennett finally acceded to a request from Defense Minister Gantz to establish a commission of inquiry regarding this case. Chief Justice Esther Chayut appointed the members of the committee, which was headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Asher Grunis and included another judge, a former director of the Bank of Israel, a former commander of the air force, and a senior official involved in the security industry. Upon hearing that news, Netanyahu’s enemies rejoiced. They were certain that it was only a matter of time before Netanyahu would be brought up on charges.

Investigation Boomerangs Against Instigator

The latest development came last week, when the committee sent several letters to a number of individuals to warn them that they might be charged if the committee finalizes its accusations against them. While Netanyahu was one of the recipients of those letters, and former Mossad chief Yossi Cohen was another, guess who else received a warning letter that specified far more severe criminal charges to be leveled against him. If you guessed Moshe “Bogie” Yaalon, then you are right!

Regarding Netanyahu, the committee wrote, “It may been determined that Netanyahu’s conduct during the years 2009 through 2016 with regard to the purchase of submarines and maritime vessels led to deep, systematic obstruction of the processes of working and building power, and harmed the decision-making mechanisms in a series of sensitive areas. By doing this, he jeopardized the security of the state and harmed the foreign relations and economic interests of the State of Israel.”

This is all very unpleasant, but it isn’t terrible. The committee’s potential condemnation of Moshe Yaalon, who served as defense minister from 2013 through 2016 and as Minister of Strategic Affairs from 2009 through 2013, was far more scathing. The warning letter revealed that the committee might conclude that Yaalon ordered the publication of an international tender for the purchase of military equipment without the prime minister’s approval, and that he approved various purchases that cost the country hundreds of millions of shekels. To make matters worse, Yaalon also made a false presentation to the Supreme Court, claiming that other officials had been responsible for directing the purchase of submarines that were more expensive than those approved by the government. Yaalon also told the court that national security would be harmed by the acquisition of a sixth submarine and that the purchase had been made needlessly, yet he had personally supported that purchase at the time. It was also found that he had refrained from giving any instructions about the size of the country’s submarine fleet, even though the issue was referred directly to his desk. Yaalon is now suffering from the results of his own instigation.

Why Is Danny Danon an Ambassador to the UN?

There is much more that I could report about, but I seem to be running out of space. But there is one topic that could easily have been the subject of this entire column, since it is a classic example of a fifth column in Israeli politics. This is the story: In an act of unbelievable gall, a group of Israelis recently wrote an op-ed in the New York Times calling on Congress to cancel the invitation to Netanyahu to address the American legislature. The signatories included an author named David Grossman; Nobel Prize laureate Professor Aaron Ciechanover; David Harel, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities; Talia Sasson, a former member of the state prosecution who has repeatedly demonstrated that she is on the far left of the political map; former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo; and, of course, former prime minister Ehud Barak.

Meanwhile, Danny Danon was appointed Israel’s ambassador to the UN, replacing Gilad Erdan. Erdan no longer holds the job for a simple reason: He asked for a larger apartment so that his children could live with him, and the government turned him down. And there is also a simple reason that the job was given to Danon: Because Netanyahu wants to keep him far away from the Knesset.

In other news, the government decided to permit the construction of a new chareidi settlement; it will be interesting to see how it develops. And the protestors against Netanyahu have continued crossing every imaginable red line.

Above all, we are still hearing frequent reports about the deaths of soldiers, which is very saddening. The hostages in Gaza are also in the headlines once again, as the United States is reportedly putting together a new framework for a hostage deal. We can only hope that it will succeed in bringing the hostages home without exacting too high a price. There were also hundreds of rocket interceptions this past weekend, mainly in the north, and the situation is growing unbearable. And on another interesting note, the government has begun releasing terrorists from prison to make room for even more dangerous terrorists to take their place. The implications of that fact are staggering.

Children of Marseilles Donate a Sefer Torah

But let me end this column on a more cheerful note. The children of the Jewish community of Marseilles, France, decided to band together and to raise a hefty sum of money for the Border Guard base at Yad Mordechai, near the Gaza Strip. (The Border Guard is an entity that is essentially a cross between the police and the army.) The rov of the city, Rav Reuvein Ochana, a member of the bais din of the Conference of European Rabbis, was the force behind this initiative. Rav Ochana called on the children of the city to donate money for a sefer Torah in memory of the soldiers and police officers who were killed in the Hamas attack on the base on Simchas Torah. Every child above the age of bar mitzvah donated ten euros to the cause, and those under the age of bar mitzvah donated five euros each. Of course, the adults contributed their own share as well.

The money that was collected turned out to be sufficient not only for a new sefer Torah but also for the renovation of the shul on the base, which was originally a tiny room with an area of only twenty square meters but has now more than doubled in size and has been magnificently refurbished. Yehuda Cohen, a prominent member of the community who accompanied the rov to the event, remarked that while various people from Marseilles had made other contributions in the past, and there were even doctors from the community who came to Israel to volunteer their services, this was a particularly special initiative since it united the entire city, especially the children of the Jewish community.

The new shul was inaugurated on Wednesday, and the hachnossas sefer Torah was celebrated at a very special event. The guest of honor was the rov of Marseilles, Rav Reuvein Ochana, and the participants included dignitaries from the Marseilles community, officers in the Border Guard, the base commanders, and local police officers. Rav Ochana spoke passionately about creating bridges between the Jewish people and the Torah, between Eretz Yisroel and the Diaspora, and between the children of Marseilles and the soldiers. The members of the delegation from Marseilles traveled to Bnei Brak together with their rov to daven at the kevorim of the Steipler, Rav Shach, and Rav Chaim Kanievsky. Even though we have seen many projects launched all over the world to benefit IDF soldiers and to commemorate the victims of terror, there was something especially moving about this one.



The Root Cause

  We have been living in turbulent times for a while, and this week, they got even more turbulent. Just a week after one party’s

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