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Religious Zionism at a Crossroads: Preserving Political Alliance or Embracing Change?

Previously, we have discussed the ultra-Orthodox community's diminished sense of "citizenship," implying a restricted sense of duty and accountability towards the state and the collective Israeli society. For the most part, this community perceives democracy not as an inherent value but as a mechanism, one they have adeptly harnessed to further their interests.

In a recent declaration, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef issued a stark warning, suggesting that the ultra-Orthodox community might leave Israel should they be compelled into military service. Politically, Rabbi Yosef's pronouncement signifies reaching a consensus on the conscription matter is extremely unlikely.

carrying the israeli convention

What is particularly striking about Rabbi Yosef's assertion is the threat by a high-ranking figure to disrupt the established norms of a particular, broadly awarded privilege. A privilege that is lacking genuine religious foundation and stemming instead from a decades-old coalition agreement—is not maintained.

Religious Zionism at a Crossroad 

The current moment poses a critical test for religious Zionism's leadership. The significant losses sustained by this community in recent conflicts, coupled with their dual commitment to Torah study and military service, has spurred an active debate on this issue. Within religious Zionism, two divergent paths have emerged:

  • One path emphasizes the importance of maintaining the political bond with the ultra-Orthodox. Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the Religious Zionist Party, who recently mourned a cousin lost in Gaza, opts to sustain the dynamics of Israeli identity politics. This alliance, though ideologically framed, pragmatically seeks to preserve power and tribal privileges, the implications of which have been profoundly felt over the past year.

  • The other path advocates for rejuvenating the Zionist alliance. This approach proposes the establishment of a nonpartisan, democratic Zionist alliance among those who feel a deep sense of obligation and responsibility towards the state, identify with the Israeli ethos, adopt a pan-Israeli perspective over communal or tribal affiliations, and are prepared to shoulder the collective burden.

Though lacking a political platform, this vision evidently resonates with many within religious Zionism. Atchalta, a nonpolitical entity, has reevaluated its stance to counter the identity politics that have driven Israel towards socio economic challenges. The inception of a new Zionist alliance might well be a pivotal prerequisite for Israel's resurgence.


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