Today on Arutz Sheva, there is an interesting interview with Tzipi Hotovely regarding her opinion of Netanyahu's building freeze: MK Hotovely to INN: If Freeze Continues, I Won't Support Budget. The interview is interesting, so see there.
I wrote the following letter to Hotovely's office, regarding one statement of hers:
I wish to speak please regarding "MK Hotovely to INN: If Freeze Continues, I Won't Support Budget" in Arutz Sheva, 15 September, http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/139633
I will but briefly note that I completely agree with you regarding such matters as the prospect of peace, the propriety of land for peace, the Jewish people's title to the land of Israel, and other such sundry details. Suffice it to say that as a religious zionist myself, I need not emphasize that I agree with your words on those matters.
But what did concern me was the following: regarding Netanyahu, you said, "I trust him enough. He knows he must be accountable to the public and I am sure he will keep doing what he promised. Governments are tested on what they promise."
Now, of what little I know of you, I do trust you, and I will continue to trust you until you give me reason to do otherwise. So I am optimistic, and I believe that in all likelihood, I can trust you know when it is a time to stand by Netanyahu and when it is a time to disagree with him. I have confidence that you are not his sycophant, and that you will do what is proper when it is proper.
Nevertheless, your words do still alarm me, and I wish to comment on them. Perhaps my words are unnecessary, but better that they be said unnecessarily, than that necessary words be omitted.
The last thing we should do is to trust the government. "The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first." (Thomas Jefferson. Of course, Israel has no constitution, and it baffles me that Israel can be considered a democracy without one. Constitutionalism is the bedrock of democracy, for you cannot have rule of the people when the people do not stipulate contractual terms to their servant, the government. Would any businessman ever employ an employee without a contract? If any man were ever so foolish to do so, then he would be hiring his own slavemaster. Lacking a constitution, even relatively free Britain was able to shame itself with the declaration that it could bind America "in all cases whatsoever.")
"This may serve to teach us the danger of allowing to any mortal man an inordinate measure of power to speak great things: to allow to any man uncontrollableness of speech; you see the desperate danger of it. Let all the world learn to give mortal men no greater power than they are content they shall use--for use it they will. And unless they be better taught of God, they will use it ever and anon: it may be, make it the passage of their proceeding to speak what they will. And they that have liberty to speak great things, you will find It to be true, they will speak great blasphemies. ... It is necessary, therefore, that all power that is on earth be limited, church-power or other. If there be power given to speak great things, then look for great blasphemies, look for a licentious abuse of it. It is counted a matter of danger to the state to limit prerogatives; but it is a further danger not to have them limited: they will be like a tempest if they be not limited. A prince himself cannot tell where he will confine himself, nor can the people tell; but if he have liberty to speak great things, then he will make and unmake, say and unsay, and undertake such things as are neither for his own honor nor for the safety of the state. ... And so for children and servants, or any others you are to deal with: give them the liberty and authority you would have them use, and beyond that stretch not the tether; it will not tend to their good nor yours." (John Cotton, "Limitation on Government")
"It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary." (James Madison, Federalist no. 51)
Jefferson, Cotton, and Madison all spoke from a pious, Reformed Christian, libertarian perspective, the perspective that served as the foundation of American politics for over two-hundred years. And yet, even so, we see that America is tending towards the way of social-democracy. But to quote Norman Thomas, "The American people will never knowingly adopt Socialism. But under the name of 'liberalism' they will adopt every fragment of the Socialist program, until one day America will be a Socialist nation, without knowing how it happened." If this be true - and we today see empirical evidence of its veracity - then how much more true must this be in Israel, where no libertarian tradition of human rights and liberties exist, where socialism has been held as the benchmark? (I truly believe that libertarianism is a prerequisite to proper observance of the Noahide law that mandates the establishment of courts of justice, and that the laws of Mishpatim and Shofetim cannot be fulfilled except when libertarianism is adhered to. Where libertarianism is lacking, so is appreciation for the sovereignty of the individual man, created in G-d's image. In fact, in Hilkhot Geziela v'Aveida 5:18, RambaM offers a social-contract theory for legitimate taxation. But I digress.)
The last thing Israel needs is to trust its government, G-d forbid. Man should never trust his government, but all the more so, he should never do so in a place such as Israel, where democracy is scoffed at and scorned. (Compare Ehud Barak's statement that democracy means the government's authority to impose martial law.) "When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." (Thomas Jefferson) "Let us take care of our rights, and we therein take care of our prosperity. "SLAVERY IS EVER PRECEDED BY SLEEP." (John Dickinson, Letters from a Farmer in Pennsylvania, no. 12)
Personally, I believe Netanyahu to be a scoundrel without the slightest bit of moral integrity. After all, the man promised the "settlers" that the freeze would be merely temporary and that then all would be back to normal, and then he turned right around and told the world that the freeze was a first step towards an independent Palestianian state. Surely both cannot be true, unless Netanyahu's words are graced with the properties of quantum physics! But I shall not begrudge your trusting him. I have a friend who despises Rabbi S. R. Hirsch (my hero) for what he perceives as his unfair attacks on Zecharias Frankel, but this man remains my friend nevertheless. So I will not begrudge your trust in Netanyahu. All I ask is that you please remember your principles, and that you put them before Netanyahu or any other man. And please, for the love of G-d, do not ask us to trust the government. The government must ever remain on probation, under our watchful surveillance, lest it extend itself beyond its lawful limits without our notice. It is easier to hold the flood waters back, then to return them after the dam has burst.
You indeed criticize Netanyahu's building freeze, and his willingness to countenance a Palestinian state, and his negligence in asserting red lines, and your criticism gives me hope. In short, I trust you, but I please request that you do not betray my trust.
Thank you, and sincerely,
Jerusalem; formerly of Silver Spring, MD, USA
P. S. Note that John Cotton spoke not only of civil government, but of ecclesiastical government as well. We should not be surprised, for the same principles apply to both. The same Protestants who assailed the Catholic Church as tyrannical and authoritarian, invented modern constitutional democracy (which is to be distinguished from French Enlightenment's social-democracy; Alexander Hamilton considered "the French Revolution to be no more akin to the American Revolution than the faithless wife in a French novel is like the Puritan matron in New England", according to Abraham Kuyper's book Calvinism). King James I told the Protestants that they agreed with kingship as much as G-d did with the Devil, and that a request to get rid of Anglican bishops would soon enough turn into a rejection of monarchy as well. The following passage from Rabbi S. R. Hirsch is thus enlightening; I quote The Character of the Jewish Community", in Collected Writings, pp. 23f., 47:
"It is not the rabbinate or the board of trustees but the community itself that is the focal point of all Jewish communal life. It is from the community that all religious authority must emanate. The office and functions of the board of trustees have meaning only to the extent that they represent the community and carry out its will. Only by virtue of the trust placed in him by the community does the חכם, that expert in the Law, become מומחה לרבים, the public authority, the rabbi in the true sense of the word. Judaism has no "hierarchical authority" that can impose regulations on the community, or appoint religious functionaries, against the community's will or even without consulting the community. Our Sages teach us that אין מעמידין פרנס על הצבור אלא אם כן נמלכין בצבור "one does not appoint a trustee for the community without having first obtained the free-willed consent of the community" (ברכות נה). They cite the example of the appointment of Bezalel, who was first introduced to Moses by the Almighty Himself with the words ראה קראתי בשם בצלאל וגו, and then by Moses to the Children of Israel with these words: ראו קרא ה בדם בצלאל וגו. "See for yourselves" that God has made him worthy of this calling by endowing him with outstanding talent (Cf. Exodus 31,2; 35,30). The Sages further teach us that כל גזירה שבית דין גוזרין על הצבור ולא קבלו רוב הצבור עליהן אינה גזירה "any ordinance enacted by the religious authorities but not accepted by the majority of the community has no binding authority under the Law" (ירושלמי שבת פ"א הל"ד). Even the supreme authorities of religious law, men like Daniel and his council, Shammai and Hillel and their assembly, made the binding, legal authority of their own religious ordinances dependent on their acceptance by the majority of the Jewish community (שבת יד, חולין ו). This is the intent of the unchangeable basic law of Jewish religious communal life as sanctioned in advance by the Supreme Lawgiver, God Himself, when He proclaimed His Law at the time of מתן תורה on Mount Sinai. God offered His holy Law to the entire community for their free-willed acceptance; the eternal binding authority of the Torah is based on a covenant made without coercion. Even with regard to the מצות העתידות להתחדש, religious obligations that were added subsequently, we are taught קימו וקבלו, קימו מה קבלו כבר, the Jewish people carried out only that which they had previously accepted as their obligation of their own free will (שבועות לט). ... We have already seen that the Jewish religious community should be autonomous, that it should be willing and able to direct on its own the functions of all its parts in every aspect of Jewish communal life. The center of power and authority in the Jewish community is not the board of trustees, nor even the rabbinate, but the community itself. The board of trustsees and the rabbi derive their functions only from the election or authorization by the community. The board of trustees can act only by order of the community, and the rabbi is a rabbi solely by virtue of the fact that the community has accepted him as such. Even after the community has delegated part of its authority to the trustees and the rabbi, the community itself must continue to make certain at all times that its authority is being implemented solely for the purpose of helping the community attain its sacred objectives. Indeed, as we have seen, the autonomy of the Jewish religious community has been safeguarded to such an extent that even the Jewish nations' highest religious authorities made the binding force of their own ordinances conditional on whether they were accepted by the nation as a whole."
Rabbi Hirsch goes on to say that a primary reason for every layman to study Torah, is so that he'll know when to reject the rulings of his rabbi as false. In other words, Rabbi Hirsch bases the mitzvah of limud torah on the fallibility and sinfulness of man; all rabbis are human, and are liable to speak falsehood, whether accidentally or deliberately. Therefore, Rabbi Hirsch says, a man's trust in his rabbi must always be conditional and probational. In the same essay, Rabbi Hirsch rejects that the civil government has any right whatsoever to involve itself in religious affairs, and that both the Reform and the Orthodox in Germany must be censured for turning to the German civil authorities for assistance. I believe Rabbi Hirsch's stance has much to say about the rabbinate in Israel.
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