Jan 23 • 35M

"It's not that we'd have no government; we'd have no country"

Micha Goodman, one of Israel's most important public intellectuals and authors, on why the "Right" is really two opposed camps—genuine "conservative" and messianic—and a frightening doomsday scenario

Open in playerListen on);
Episode details

Micha Goodman (Photo: Yonit Schiller, taken from Shalom Hartman Institute website)

Israel is embroiled in a political upheaval, perhaps the most profound in its history (though there have been others that at least came close), a seismic tremor that is shaking the country to its very foundations. There are many issues, some of which we have covered in recent weeks.

Beyond the Cabinet and the Judicial Reform issues (among others), though, what is being shaken is Israel’s soul. Something either wonderful or terrible is happening in Israel (perhaps both?), and to learn more about what is happening to Israel beyond politics and jurisprudence, we turned to one of Israel’s leading public intellectuals and one of the most profound diagnosticians of Israel’s moral and spiritual life, the best-selling author and philosopher, Micha Goodman.

Micha Goodman is a leading voice on Judaism, Zionism, the Bible, and the challenges and opportunities facing Israel and contemporary world Jewry. He is the author of numerous Israeli bestsellers (some of which have been translated into English), including Moses’s Final Speech, The Dream of the Kuzari, and The Secrets of the Guide for the Perplexed.

His 2017 book, Catch ’67, rose to the best-seller lists and prompted many discussions about the ramifications of the Six Day War at its 50th anniversary. His newest book, The Wondering Jew: Israel and the Search for Jewish Identity was published in 2020.

Goodman also directs Beit Midrash Yisraeli – Beit Prat, Israel’s leading pluralistic Beit Midrash for young adults. With several thousand alumni and some 300 new students each year, Beit Prat strengthens the pluralistic Jewish character of Israel, nurtures connections between Israelis of different backgrounds, and builds a bridge between Israeli young adults and their Diaspora peers.

Goodman lectures regularly overseas and at Israel’s leading universities, think tanks, and cultural venues to audiences that include Israel’s political and national leaders. Among other venues, he has lectured and taught at the Knesset, the official residence of Israel’s Prime Minister, and the official residence of Israel’s President.

Our conversation with Micha Goodman is divided into two segments. Today’s segment, which you can hear via the link at the very top of this posting, is being made available to all our readers. In today’s episode, Goodman explains his much-discussed warning to the Right in this weekend’s Makor Rishon. He believes that what some people see as the “Right” is really composed of two opposing camps—philosophic conservatives and messianists, and we discuss a variety of ways this could all play out. Goodman also presents one potential scenario in which “it’s not that we don’t have a government, we don’t have a country.”

On Wednesday, we will post the second half of the discussion for paid subscribers to Israel from the Inside, along with a transcript as always. In that episode, Goodman offers an alternative vision—the way in which today’s crisis could actually lead to a dramatically realigned—and much more stable, and even more democratic and more Jewish—Jewish state.

There are very few minds in the state of Israel who, to me, are as interesting, provocative, insightful, knowledgeable as the mind of Micha Goodman, with whom I have the pleasure and privilege of sitting now. Micha is a philosopher, a public intellectual, a person who has written half a dozen books, each one of which has been a bestseller. In that regard, Micha, by the way, I have a skill that you don't have. I know how to write a book that's not a bestseller. You don't know how to do that. Someday I'll teach you. It's actually not that hard. Maybe you'll teach me how to write a book that is a bestseller. That's probably a little bit more difficult.

Anyway, Micha and I are sitting in his home, and this is obviously a pivotal, critical time for the state of Israel. And we're going to have a conversation about, really three basic issues. First of all, let me say you wrote in Friday's Makor Rishon what I thought was a very important, provocative article, really directed at the right. And I'll just point out for our listeners who may not know your background, you're a religious guy. Like, you're wearing a kippah. But you spoke to the right and you gave the right a bit of a warning about how to think about this particular period in Israeli history in light of what one might call the law of unintended consequences. I want to begin by talking a little bit about what you had to say to the right and what you hope the right will think about as we move forward politically, jurisprudentially, and so on and so forth. The second thing that I want to do, and this will probably be in the first half of the two parts that we will broadcast, is to hear from you a scenario. And again, I'll put it out there. You and I both know this and you said this to me several times before we got started. You're not a jurisprudential scholar. I'm not a jurisprudential scholar. You're not a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer. We're both talking to lots of smart people around the country, though, and hearing things. And I want you to share some of what you've learned from very wise people about the ways in which this is progressing. And its governments on all sides of the political spectrum that have contributed to this, how this could lead us to really kind of a nuclear moment in Israeli political life.

And then the third part, which will probably broadcast as our second episode with you, is I want to talk about what's really happening here. Not the Supreme Court, not the Knesset, not certain personalities in the Cabinet that many people find highly objectionable, but what's happening in Israel, what's happening to Israel's soul. Something very, very deep is happening in this country. And we've done plenty of stuff on this podcast about the technicalities of this law and that law. And people have been really, I think, had great explanations from people like Haviv Rettig Gur and others. But from you, I want to hear sort of what's happening to the soul of Israel.

So, first of all, thank you so much for your time. Thanks for having me in your home. Let's start with your article in Makor Rishon on Friday. You gave a couple of examples about laws of unintended consequences. Give us some of those examples and then tell us what you want the right to learn from those examples.

So first of all, I want to explain why I approached the Israeli right, trying to persuade the Israeli right, hardcore right wingers that these reform away too extreme. And these reforms they should object to them, not because these reforms go against the values of the left, but because they're going to destroy the basic values of the Israeli right. That was my argument. But to understand this argument, first of all, I want to say something about the Israeli right. Within the Israeli right, there's a dormant tension. It was always there, but it was never triggered. And now I think it's triggered a very deep contradiction within the Israeli right.

Give a gift subscription

There are two ideological currents populating the Israeli right. One, I would say classic conservative thinking. The second is messianic thinking. Now, Danny conservative way of thinking and Messianic way of thinking are completely opposites. And the fact that they're both called right wing is just, I would say, a linguistic accident. Now, Bibi Netanyahu he's not messianic at all. He doesn't want to transform reality. He wants to preserve the status quo. Now, Bibi is extremely careful.

Because conservative thought has always argued that you can't transform reality.

You can't transform reality… you can only create very small, subtle, careful adjustments. Why? Because you can't predict the unintended consequences of your actions. You don't have now, conservative thinkers like Edmund Burke and like a leader called Benjamin Netanyahu always understood that if you think that you can predict the unintended consequences like the results of your actions and the unintended results of your actions, that is hubris. That is thinking that in your mind, you can understand how history works, and no one can understand how history works. And therefore, we cannot predict our unintended consequences, which would mean that a conservative leader is always a very careful leader. Messianic politicians, on the other hand, they think they could predict the result of their actions. They could predict it because if you're on the extreme left, you have like Karl Marx giving you a prediction of how history is supposed to work. And if you're in the extreme right, you have Prophet Isaiah, the way you interpret him and understand him, that could tell you how history works out, where the future is going. So, you have the certainty that enables you to predict the result of your actions. And then you feel very comfortable transforming the status quo and knowing that Israel that will be created will be the Israel that you expect that will be created by your actions. So, we have these two different understanding of politics within the Israeli right, conservative and messianic. This coalition is trying to unite these opposites, these two brands of Israeli right. Now, I would say the future of Israel today will be determined not who will win the battle of ideas, the left or the right, but who will prevail in the battle of ideas between the two different currents within the Israeli rights. The reason why I wrote to Makor Rishon this past weekend was because I tried to give strength and intellectual ammunition to the conservative brand of the right in order so it will be strong enough to overcome, in the battle of ideas, the Messianic brand of the right. That was what I tried to do.

I'm very interested in technology, as you might know. And here's something very interesting. In the 1990s, when the digital revolution began, people were very optimistic. They were optimistic how technology, the new technology, is going to bring health to democracy?

Well, it's going to democratize knowledge and information.

Because the idea was that knowledge is power, right? And if only elites have access to knowledge, so elites will actually have monopoly overpower, they will create a hierarchy that will crush democracy. What happens, Google is invented, the digital revolution happens. And there is this very, I would say easy prediction. I wouldn't have predicted differently if I was active intellectually in the 90s, that this will lead to democratization of information and therefore to more democracy, democratization of power. Well, we know what happens 20 years later. Yeah, there is democratization of information, but there's also democratization of disinformation. That is unintended consequence. That was one of the unintended consequences of the digital revolution. As a result, conspiracy theories used to be in the periphery of the conversation, went mainstream, and different groups living in different bubbles of information, we don't share facts. And as a result, democracies all over the world are under threat to a revolution. That the prediction was will lead to more democracy, and in fact, it's leading to less democracy. Democratization of disinformation has tremendous impact on democracies today much more than the democratization of information has. So, no one predicted that. No one could have predicted that. But that's what happens. So conservative people have to realize and do realize, by the way, if they're really conservative thinkers, that actions have unintended consequences. And you should have modesty to know that you cannot predict the results of your actions. So here we are in an interesting moment where we have a right-wing government that is populated by that the leader is a conservative politician, like genuine conservative, a genuine conservative thinker, like Benjamin Netanyahu and for Netanyahu he was always a very careful leader. He was a careful leader. He always tried to protect the status quo on many levels including the legal system in Israel. Protecting the status quo. That was always Bibi.

Right. Bibi is on record saying that a powerful Supreme Court is critical for the judicial stability, for example.

That’s right. And he was afraid of real radical changes. He would only promote very subtle corrections like a true Burkian. That was Bibi until very lately. By the way, that Bibi might still be alive. He might still surprise us. We might talk about that later on.

Right. Well, we don't know what Bibi is doing because of genuine ideological belief and what Bibi is doing in order to hold a coalition together so he can stay in power and also avoid legal consequences.

That's true. And also, I think we didn't hear him yet.

He's not talking to the press at all.

Not to the Israeli press.

Right. He's talking to Peterson and to Bari Weiss outside Israel, but he's really not talking to the Israeli press, which is a fascinating phenomenon, but for another time. So, what's your warning to the right here based on this law of unintended consequences?

So, because we cannot predict the unintended consequences of our actions. We can only guess, I wanted to offer in the newspaper two, I think, very probable guesses. One, now they're radically reforming the system. What will happen once the opposition becomes the coalition?

Because the opposition always comes back into powers eventually.

That's right. So, the first thing they'll do will obviously cancel these reforms and redesign the Israeli constitution, redesign the balance of powers. And what will happen once the right is back?

They'll do it again.

They'll do it again. Which means Israel will stop being a stable country. But every now and then there's a new government. It'll become an unstable country where every now and again, now and then we have a new regime, we have a new constitution, and that lack of stability will create a very weak Israel.

It's an Israel that nobody will invest in… young people will want to move…

Who can create long term investments with your life or with your money in a country where you don't know who the regime will be in four years? Excuse me… in normal liberal democracies, you don't know who the government will be in four more years, but you can guess what the regime will be. Israel will become a country, but not only where you don't know who the government is going to be, you don't know what regime you're going to have, what's going to be the constitution, what's going to be the balance of powers. So, I think that's a probable result, possible result of this reform. But then what happens if, when the left comes back to power, it chooses not to cancel the judicial reforms?

Not to change what's just been done by the right?

And that's also a possibility. This is a second guess, which is very probable. Say, you know what, the previous right-wing government gave the government so much power unchecked, unbalanced, let's not give it up.

Right because the left will enjoy having that power.

That's right. Let's use it in order to crush everything that's important and dear to the right wing… the previous right-wing government like to crush the yeshiva world, to crush the settlement movements, and they could do it with no problems because there will be no institution that will balance the power of the government. These are possible unintended consequences, and conservatives should know this. Conservatives should know that history has a tendency to punish people who think that it can design it and plan it and predict it.

So therefore, you are urging the right to move very slowly, very carefully.

I'm urging the right to be right.

To be a genuine conservative right.


Which means to know that you cannot predict history, you cannot shape history, to be very, very careful about what you're doing because of unintended consequences and not to be messianic like some of the voices in the right.

That's right. I don't think making a liberal argument saying, don't do this because you'd be crushing liberal values, that's not an effective argument. I'm not asking the right to be nice to the left. I'm asking the right to be authentically right.

Okay. Very important. That's basically the summary of your Makor Rishon article, which is, I don't think out in English yet, or anywhere in English. Well, maybe one day you'll put it out, but right now, as at this moment, it's not there.

And Makor Rishon chose to put it in the front page.

Yes, it was on the front page of Makor Rishon. First of all, it's a very philosophic piece. I mean, it's not a political piece, it's not a judicial piece. It's not about this minister did that or that judge said that. It really begins with this whole definition of real conservativism. You give another example of laws of unintended consequences, ironically, where tell me where I get this wrong, but basically the advent of the birth control pill in the 1960s ultimately enabled European families to become smaller, which ultimately led to increased migration from other countries to fill the jobs that there were no longer young European people to do. Which led to a large influx of Muslim people who are not all that interested in becoming Western European style. And now they've had a huge impact on Europe, you argue.

And most importantly, that create a radical right-wing reaction.

Right. A radical right-wing reaction to this massive influx of Muslims. So, in a kind of a law of unintended consequences, you argue it, I thought, fascinatingly, who would have guessed in the 1960s that the birth control pill was actually going to lead to a rise of radical right-wing conservativism, even racist conservativism in Europe? You would never think that. But this was an example of what you're giving. I thought it was a great piece, and it was important for our listeners to understand it.

Okay. When I got here a little while ago, and we're sitting in your home, thank you for your hospitality, you opened the door, and I said, “Hey, how are you doing?” And you said, “Well, you know, I mean, given that the Third Temple is about to collapse or might be about to collapse, not bad”. And we both kind of giggled and laughed because that's the nature of the discourse people are having these days in Israel. Everybody sort of got this black humor, dark humor, gallows humor, like, I'm doing fine. Of course, there's no country. I'm doing fine. Of course, it won't be legal to ask me that in a few weeks. I know everybody's talking that way, but we're really all deeply, very worried. Now, again, I want to go back and give the caveats that we said at the bit at the beginning, you never went to law school. I never went to law school. You're not a lawyer. I'm not a lawyer. You're not a jurisprudential scholar. I'm not a jurisprudential scholar. But we're both speaking to lots of those people. And you ran by me a scenario where and you'll explain to our listeners some of the ways in which governments on both sides of the seesaw have tinkered with what we call Basic Laws here and how, ultimately, this tinkering with Basic Laws could lead to a possible scenario where really the government almost doesn't exist. So just explain it with all of the caveats that we've just given.

So, Israel doesn't have a constitution. I think we all know that. But the constitution that we don't have looks like this. The first Knesset was supposed to legislate a constitution. It didn't do it, but it did something else. It decided that the Knesset will legislate Basic Laws. And those Basic Laws, one day, when we add them up, they will become our Constitution.

That wasn't the first Knesset, was it? The basic laws. I think it was a little bit later, I think.

I think it was the Harari Committee that was appointed in the First Knesset, I think. And the Harari Committee’s recommendation was that the Knesset will start legislating Basic laws. And then one day, we'll add up those Basic Laws into our Constitution. So instead of legislating a constitution, they decide that that it will be a work in process for a while.

Okay. So, the first Basic Laws were about the foundations of the basic institutions, like the Basic Law (Hok Yesod HaKnesset) that that defines what are the authorities of Knesset. Hok Yesod Hasfita is a Basic Law that defines what are the basic authorities of the courts, and so forth. Hok Yesod Nasi Hamedina is a basic law that defines the authority of the President of Israel. And then in 1992, for the first time, our Knesset legislated our version of the Bill of Rights.

The Basic Law about the dignity of human beings and their freedoms.

Which was seen as our version of a Basic Law. Not creating the institutions that are governing us, but to find the boundaries of those institutions because it legislated the primacy of human rights. That happened in ’92.

And then later on in 1995, the Chief Justice, Aharon Barak, he defined that law of 1992 the Basic Bill of Rights law as a law that is superior to any other law, which means that if any law that the Knesset legislates contradicts that law. So, the law that the Knesset legislated is illegal.

This is what people refer to when they talk about the activist Court of Aharon Barak and the judicial revolution of Aharon Barak, its important people understand, many people argue that what's happening now is simply a counter revolution to the Barack Revolution.

That's right.

So, people just need to understand what that revolution was in 1995, taking that ‘92 Law and giving it an unprecedented primacy in the Israeli legal system.

That's right. And so, from this moment on, ‘95, the Supreme Court can decide which laws are legal and which laws are illegal because they contradict our Bill of Rights.

Which is a law that the Supreme Court itself decided had primacy.

Exactly. So, actually, I read that law this morning. I don't think it's a very far-fetched reading of the law to say that has primacy. But that was, like, the Orthodox understanding of that law. It has primacy. And now, from now on, the Supreme Court has the authority to cancel laws of the Knesset. Now, this is very extreme. Now, this means that the Knesset can be judged by the Supreme Court. But the Supreme Court is saying no, it's not that we are canceling the laws of the Knesset. Our power comes from the laws of the Knesset themselves.

Because you passed that law.

That's right. The Basic Laws give the Supreme Court the power to cancel laws that are not basic laws. Basically, what the Supreme Court is saying, we are using your Basic Laws of the Knesset against your laws, the laws of the Knesset. So, it's actually all the power is within the Knesset. That's the argument of Aharon Barak, if I understand it correctly. And then a few things started happening the past few years. The Knesset started making corrections to Basic Laws.

Including the government of Naftali Bennett.

That’s right. Including Lapid and Bennett. They started very easily correcting Basic Laws. Like, for example, Hok Yesod Hamimshalah, the Basic Laws defining the authorities of the government. They made some corrections… actually, no, this started with the government of Gantz and Netanyahu.

It was really the government of Netanyahu. But yeah.

Yeah. But in order to make Gantz the alternate Prime Minister they had to change a Basic Law to do that.

Right, because they had to create this idea of an alternate Prime Minister.

That's right. So, in order to enable politicians to play politics, they started making corrections to Basic Laws, and they started doing this more and more. There's Norwegian Law, which I think makes adjustments to the Basic Law of the Knesset.

So, what I'm saying is that we tried to notice that the Basic Laws that are supposed to regulate the behavior of politicians, now it's reversed. The politicians are trying to regulate the Basic Laws. They're trying to make adjustments just so it could just so it could serve their very local and very temporary and very specific political needs of that moment. Right.

And by the way, this is not nefarious. They're not trying to create a revolution. They're not trying to change Israel. Just basically, Bibi wants Gantz to be an alternate Prime Minister. There's no job called alternate, Prime Minister. So, they changed the Basic Law. Now there is that job.

Now, imagine the president could change the constitution so it could serve his own political needs. That's kind of unthinkable. That's what we have in Israel is because we don't have the constitution. The closest thing we have is Basic Laws. But there's no tradition that you don't change the Basic Laws. So instead of the politicians being obligated, being restrained by the Basic Laws, the politicians could have changed those Basic Laws themselves. So effectively, you're saying, so what's the value of Basic Laws? At the same time? And then in parallel, the Supreme Court did something unprecedented. And I think this was 2018, after the Knesset legislated the Nation State Law. So, the Supreme Court got together to decide if that nation state basic law is legal. Now, they decided it is legal. But think about it Danny, just the fact that they thought that they had the right to convene and have that conversation and decide if it's legal. That means that they think that they have the authority to cancel Basic Laws.

That are passed by the Knesset.

That are passed by the Knesset.

And that set off all the alarm bells for the right.

Now, this is very extreme because Aharon Barak said I only could cancel regular laws using Basic Laws to do this. Now the Supreme Court is saying I could cancel the Basic Laws themselves, which so who gave you the authority to cancel the Basic Laws? Because the authority you took to cancel regular laws came from Basic Laws. So, who gives you the authority to cancel Basic Laws? And I think their answer is, we just took it.

Now, we're chuckling, by the way. But this is what has the right enraged, and those people on the American Jewish Left, who are many of our listeners, who think that the right has somehow completely come unglued. And I'm not in favor of those judicial reforms in their entirety, and I don't think you are either. But it is important for people to understand that this didn't come out of nowhere, that this came from very aggressive steps on the part of the Supreme Court. Some people think they're legit, some people think they're not legit, but there is a legitimate conversation to be had about those steps.

So, if the only constitution we have is based on the primacy of the Basic Laws and the Knesset could change whenever they want, and the Supreme Court could think they could cancel them whenever they want, it means we don't have a constitution. So, it's only a battle of power between the Knesset and the Supreme Court. Okay, so that's the background that took us to this moment. Now and again, I just want to repeat what you said, I'm not a lawyer, and everything I'm saying is based on my conversations with people that professionally understand this. So now where does this take us? Yariv Levin is going to be promoting very extreme reforms, reforms that effectively cancel the ability of the Supreme Court to balance the Knesset. Now, in Israel, this is very dangerous because it should be understood how in Israel, the government has complete control over the Knesset because by definition, the government has a majority in the Knesset. Because without a majority in the Knesset it wouldn’t have a coalition.

So, the government controls the Knesset, so the Knesset it’s not a check, it doesn't balance the government.

It's not like in America where you have an executive branch and a legislative branch. Here the executive and the legislative are combined in the Knesset.

So, the only institution that could balance the government is not the Knesset. It's the supreme court. But if the Supreme Court itself loses its power…

Then you have basically one branch without any balance of power.

That’s right. So, this is very, very extreme, right? Very extreme. So, if Aharon Barak, like many Israelis feel, took too many authorities to itself and violated the balance between the government and the court system…

Just to remind people, Aharon Barak, the Chief Justice of the Court back in the 90s.

So now Yariv Levin, this new reform is transforming the imbalance, and now the imbalance will be towards the government. The government have all the power, has full control over the Knesset, and it's not checked by the Supreme Court. By the way, I don't think it's going to happen.

I don't think it's going to happen either. I think some moderated version is going to happen.

But let's assume it's going to happen, right? If it's going to happen and if these reforms will come through…

And let’s hope we’re both not wrong

That’s right. That’s also group thinking. So, if high probability, the Supreme Court will say, we do not approve them. We think that these laws reforming the judicial system are illegal.

Right. So, in other words, Yariv Levin, who's the Minister of Justice right now, passes his whole package. The Knesset votes for it, and they say, okay, we've now radically changed the judicial system. The Supreme Court, which as you pointed out before, has the right to declare certain Knesset laws not legitimate, says no, those laws that you just passed limiting our power are actually not legitimate laws. We'd say that they have no validity whatsoever. And then?

Okay so today the Supreme Court could cancel decisions of the Knesset…. The Knesset wants to cancel the possibility of the Supreme Court to cancel Knesset decisions and the Supreme Court won’t accept that. Now we're in new territory. We're in unfamiliar territory.

A lawyer that I spoke to yesterday who clerked with the Supreme Court called that the nuclear moment.

It's a nuclear moment.

Okay, so now imagine the next day, the Supreme Court says it still has the authority to cancel illegal decisions of the Knesset. The Knesset says, no, you have no authority. Okay, so what happens the next day? The next day, let's say some human rights activists they petition to the Supreme Court and say a certain action of the military is doing towards Palestinians in the West Bank, Judea and Samaria is illegal. The Supreme Court gets together and says, “yes, it's illegal. The military cannot do that. It has to change its policies.” The government says, “no, no, the Supreme Court has no authority over you. You have to continue those policies.” Now, you are Herzi Halevi…

The new Chief of Staff of the army.

The new Chief of Staff of the army. Who do you listen to? The Supreme Court or to the government? That question was never asked before in the history of Israel. And once he's faced with that dilemma….

We don't have a government.

I'm not sure we have a country. I'm not sure we have a country because let's say the army says, okay, I'm going with the government and not the Supreme Court. The 150,000 Israelis who are at the roads now, will they accept that? They won't accept that. I could definitely see Israeli generals resigning from the military…

A lot of soldiers refusing to serve.

That's right. We're entering chaos. It's like the singular moment where beyond that you can't make any predictions. It's so new territory that we can't make any predictions and we are like two moves away from there, Danny, I hope we I hope we're not going to get there. But so, people say, what could end Zionism? So, we speak about the nuclear moments. We think about Iran. Now, you mentioned nuclear moments. I think the end of Zionism is closer than we think it is, and not because of Iran, but because of the process that's happening right now in Israel. It's extremely dangerous in the paradoxes that these extreme risks are taking by people who are supposed to be very conservative and careful.

Which brings us back to the beginning of our conversation. I said, if that happens, we don't have a government. And you went much further when you said, if that happens, we don't have a country. And the that you're arguing, actually, is the moment that we could get to, because conservatives who are supposed to be very hesitant about their ability to design and shape the future, have lost sight of that inability and have gone too far. And brings us to this place where, for example, the army doesn't know who to follow. And then we're really in no man's land. And that brings us back to sort of what you said to me at the front door when I came to your house, which the destruction of the third temple.

Another problem we have, people are always speaking about this is the end, this is the end for so many years right.

And now we don't take it seriously.

So many years, everything that had ever happened, people on the extreme left were saying, this is the end of Israel. And people on the radical left in Israel are saying, have been saying for years that Israel is not a democracy. So, they kind of lost their credibility to say, well, if you do this, we won't be a democracy anymore. I thought we weren't a democracy to begin with.

Right, well, this is part of the problem of the verbal language that the left has used…

Exactly. Apocalyptic language.

Haaretz put out a magazine section this week, which was unbelievably, graphically brilliant, which showed the Jewish star between the two stripes on the flag sort of sinking. And I just thought it was an amazing graphic, and so I just posted it on the Facebook, not saying if I believe it or whatever. I cannot tell you how many people wrote to me either publicly or privately, and said, you know what Haaretz is nobody to talk right now because the left has been saying forever that we're not really going to make it. So, I think a lot of that crying wolf, so to speak, is now coming back and people are not taking it seriously.

So, when you have many false alarms going… I remember I was in the military, and you always get false alarms. There's a terrorist attack here, a terrorist attack there. You run there and there's nothing really happened because people are always paranoid. And when that happens too many times, you stop running. You stop running. So, there was many throughout the task of decades, so many false alarms, and now this might be the real thing, and we have to be able to hear the real alarm and not be, I would say, and not be not letting the previous false alarms hide the unique character of this moment.

Okay. Very sobering, fascinating, illuminating. In the next conversation we have, we're going to switch gears. We're going to move away from the Knesset, we're going to move away from the Supreme Court, we're going to move away from conservativism, and we're going to talk about the Israeli soul. Because something is happening in this country which is much bigger even than the right versus the left, the religious versus the secular, the Supreme Court versus the Knesset. Something really powerful is happening in this country to the soul of the nation. And there is nobody who speaks more eloquently about the soul of the nation than you do. And that's what we're going to talk about in our next conversation.

Share Israel from the Inside with Daniel Gordis

Impossible Takes Longer, which addresses some of the above themes, will be published this April. It’s available now for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Our twitter feed is here; feel free to join there, too.