The privilege of living in Israel

By Dow Marmur

Jerusalem (Aug. 6, 2018) – “It’s the economy stupid,” the slogan that helped Bill Clinton to defeat George W. Bush to become US President, may help Moshe Kahlon, currently Israel’s finance minister, to become the country’s next prime minister. Whereas Clinton’s inspiration is said to have been James Carville, the American political commentator and strategist, Kahlon’s push might be Standard & Poor’s (S&P) recent credit rating of Israel as AA-, which reads “very strong.” Israel has never before had such a high mark.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that there’re no poor people in Israel, only that the credit rating of the country is high, which is a sign of a healthy and stable economy with important internal social and political implications.

One of them is — to say it again — that Israel is no longer dependent on monies collected among Diaspora Jews. This, in turn, allows the prime minister to ignore them. Thus, for example, his machinations around the creation of an egalitarian prayer space at the Western Wall, and his disregard of the protestations of American-Jewish leaders in connection with the newly passed and highly contested Nation State Law.

The fact that we can protest, even resist, what we perceive to be bad policies is part of the privilege of living in the Jewish state

Of course, money is still flowing into Israel from donors, Jewish and non-Jewish, private and government. But some of it goes to liberal and radical causes and organizations. One of the recipients is The New Israel Fund (NIF). It has become the prime minister’s favorite irritant. Thus, for example, almost all opposition, according to him, is financed by NIF, irrespective of the actual evidence.

The high S&P rating reflects well on the finance minister and he hasn’t been slow in taking advantage of it. This strengthens the assumption in some quarters that Mr. Kahlon sees himself as the next prime minister of Israel. Before he formed his own party (Kulanu) he was a prominent member of Likud. There’s much to suggest that ideologically he never left Likud, which may serve him well in the next election.

His main asset is, of course, that Moshe Kahlon is not Binyamin Netanyahu. Another advantage is that he’s amiable and smiles a lot.

None of the above should obscure the fact that the S&P rating is an expression of confidence in the State of Israel, not its government. It’s unaffected by the unsettling situation on Israel’s borders. Israel is regarded as a solid country for investment and a place that’s likely to continue to prosper.

Even if you don’t understand economics, and don’t know what to make of financial analyses and predictions, you’re bound to be impressed by the confidence from abroad. Despite the troubling news about the Iranian threat looming large in the North and Hamas getting away with far too much in the South, and notwithstanding government policies that punish minorities – Jewish and others – I’m among those who find it extremely exciting to be a citizen and a resident of Israel.

As a romantic Diaspora Jew I feel particularly privileged to live in Jerusalem, but I know that many others prefer other places in Israel for equally good reasons. The fact that we can protest, even resist, what we perceive to be bad policies is part of the privilege of living in the Jewish state. Next time you read a critical comment of mine about Israel, please remember that it was made out of abiding love.

Rabbi Dow Marmur is Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He lives in Jerusalem.

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