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Tzedek or Bust?

I find it almost impossible to discuss the recent stimulus package, passed by Congress last week, in any sense of coherence; I feel so strongly about the outcome I wanted to see that it hinders my clarity. Certainly, I am unable to speak about it with anything resembling brevity. With the possible exception a Shabbat guest who actively solicited my opinions—and, fifteen minutes later, when I stopped to catch my breath, probably regretted it—I worry that I am boring the living daylights out of every single person I know.

That said, let us leave the stimulus plan right now. Let’s discuss that much calmer, safer, clearer subject—the Israeli elections. Oh…wait. So as you may well have heard, Tzipi Livni won…sort of. While Ms. Livni took the largest number of votes, neither she nor any of the candidates pulled in enough votes to actually have a majority in the Knesset. This means that a government-sharing situation is probably around the bend—actually, Livni’s party of Kadima has already called for this—provided she’s in charge of it.

It’s not a wholly unknown phenomenon—it happened before, a quarter-century ago, when Yitzkhak Shamir and Shimon Peres traded off midway.

I keep reminding myself that this could have been worse—I have a recurring nightmare, honestly, about Bibi Netanyahu being the next Israeli PM—and, as such, I guess that power-sharing is okay by me if it means that Livni is mostly calling the shots. It certainly sounds, at least superficially, like the kind of political compromise someone with self-identified feminist sensibilities should embrace: sharing instead of beating each other to a pulp non-stop.

And yet, and yet…

When I watch a certain American political party, which shall remain unidentified, attempt to stymie whatever progress might be made towards pulling our economy out of the toilet, I burn with honest rage—rage so real it literally renders me inarticulate. It’s not about partisanism for the sake of partisanism, though I’m capable of that as well—I just think that when things are dire, the people in charge with the good ideas shouldn’t have to take much input from the people with the terrible, destructive ideas. Playing nice is not as much of a feminist virtue to me as fixing the things in this world that are really, really wrong. And I happen to throw my lot in with those who value funding for infrastructure and peace talks aimed at a peaceful two-state solution. (Surprise!) So, really, it’s not like sharing is a bad thing, politically. It’s just that maybe sharing is merely the means to a larger end, and if that means stops working, we can try something else.

It’s very easy to feel powerless in both of these political situations, but it’s probably not good for us to despair. I remain cheered by the fact that much of the international progressive community is as interested in reaching out to Israel as some progressive Jewish American organizations—a la Avaaz and Jstreet. We have no way of knowing how the Israeli political kaleidescope will shake out in its new formations, but I’m ready to say that while any functioning government deserves its people’s initial respect, there’s nothing wrong with saying, these are our ideals. These are our dreams. This is the way of being a force for tzedek in the world—so help us onward or get out of the way.

–Mel Weiss