Friday August 28, 2015
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Rightists seek sedition charges over petition opposing Iran strike
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Dan Margalit

Legitimizing anarchy


It's an amazing petition, aimed at Israel's pilots. They are being asked to break an order, silence the engines on their jets and not take off for targets in Iran. Among the signatories is former head of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Law, Prof. Menachem Mautner. If and when they receive the order to attack, "you have the option of also saying no," thereby doing "an important, vital service for the State of Israel and all its residents — a giant service, greatly outweighing what you would be doing by blindly following this particular command."

I read the petition and recalled how in 2007 several of Mautner's colleagues described him as the right man to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

Mautner is affable, articulate and wise, but he was somewhat ill at ease Wednesday during his radio interview with Razi Barkai on Army Radio, in which he explained his support for the essence of the petition but not necessarily its specific content.

I phoned him to better understand his position. As we spoke I recognized some trepidation in his voice, but I didn't receive a satisfactory explanation.

For some time now Mautner has felt a deep sense of anxiety over the possibility of a military strike in Iran, and when he read Defense Minister Ehud Barak's interview with Ari Shavit in Haaretz he decided to take action, which in essence is a call to thwart a legal order issued by the government.

It would be one thing if, at least, he could explain how such an order to attack could be considered illegal, but his integrity forced him to admit that was not the case. How has he lent his hand in support of a petition that is a call for an undemocratic rebellion? Indeed, he has always been a champion of democratic virtues.

With his signature, Mautner gave legitimacy to the "hilltop youth" of Judea and Samaria and to those of their ilk who have authored manuscripts calling for a return to biblical law, those whose inner voices have told them that the current situation is so unique that it is permissible to hinder the government's lawful conduct. They feel this so deeply that the writers of the petition threatened the pilots that if Iranian civilians are affected by radioactive fallout from the damaged nuclear sites, they would be considered war criminals.

The professor tried explaining that right-wing insubordination is done for the purpose of creating a Halachic state (a state run according to Jewish religious law) and is inappropriate to begin with, while the Left acts to return Israel to its good old values.

This is most certainly not the case — the value of an independent Jewish nation is no less important than having a democracy. The Declaration of Independence read by David Ben-Gurion at Israel's birth opened with the reminder that "The Land of Israel was the birthplace of the Jewish people," and then went on to promise — thankfully — individual and civic freedom. Judaism and democracy are, in Israel, akin to Siamese twins.

If unique circumstances justify the decision to rebel against the legal government, why evacuate an outpost on land taken from Palestinians? The outpost's inhabitants, after all, have similar feelings to those who signed the petition.

During our conversation, Mautner emphasized that he and his colleagues were experiencing a sense of anxiety that they have never felt before, which is true, though the atmosphere during the weeks leading up to the Six-Day War in 1967 was similar. In matters of security and defense, Mautner has tied his views to one big tree (former IDF Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Amnon Lipkin Shahak) and one little tree (Kadima MK Meir Sheetrit), and has adopted the belief that the Americans will do the job for us — but if they don't? Fear and anxiety are not good advisers to those who need to take a position.

I also struggle day and night asking myself what the best course of action is and what is less dangerous, and whether to put our fates in friendly hands from abroad. These days, it's better to trust what we know for certain, not the calls of those who signed the pilots' petition.

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