The United Right on Tuesday accused the left, and particularly Yisrael Beytenu head Avigdor Liberman, of conducting a “media lynch” against Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich, over remarks he made on the importance of Halachah in Israeli society.
At a conference Monday night, Smotrich “discussed his personal beliefs, and at the same time stressed that he did not believe in forcing anything on anyone. Anyone who heard what he said heard him say that coexistence and consideration was necessary. The media lynch that is going on now is an attempt to force his silence, again showing the ugly side of the left.”
At the conference, Smotrich said that “my personal aspiration is that the state be run according to the Torah and according to Halacha,” but added that this was not possible, at least for now, because there were “many people who think differently and we have to get along with them.”
Practical issues that he had to deal with as Transportation Minister, such as demands that construction work on transportation infrastructure be conducted on Shabbos, “can be resolved with care and attention. Just as today we can build factories that don’t pollute, we can have a modern state with the most advanced infrastructure that does not require work on Shabbos.”
Liberman immediately attacked Smotrich for his comments, saying that “it is unbelievable that we are hearing yet again Minister Smotrich say that if it were up to him and his friends, they would cancel the laws of the state and replace them with Halachah. We have news for you – you will not have to ‘get along’ with us, because on September 18th we will establish a large, liberal coalition government without you and others who want to impose a halachic state here.”
Liberman was joined by other MKs and groups on the left. The Democratic Camp said in a statement that “these are the people to whom Binyamin Netanyahu and company have given the keys to the state. If we do not win the next elections that means that Smotrich will force a halachic state on us, his payback for defending Netanyahu.”
Speaking for Labor, MK Revital Swed said that “besides bandying about the notion of a halachic state, Smotrich is involved in a number of projects, such as imposing Israeli law on Yehuda and Shomron, and defenestrating the power of the High Court. With Netanyahu fighting to stay out of jail, these purposes are more actual than ever.”
Smotrich responded to the brouhaha by saying “I believe we can find a way” to meld Halachah into the structure of Israeli law “without hate, and with a lot of love, care and attention. I spoke of my sadness [at] the attempts to erase Shabbos by some groups – Shabbos is so important to many of our people, religious, traditional and even secular. To those who insist on not paying attention: I do not believe in coercion. One can only keep mitzvos from faith, love and personal commitment.”