The political implication of the fifth president’s announcement is immeasurably more important than Chief Justice Miriam Naor’s refusal to send a Supreme Court representative to a ceremony that has been greatly discussed in recent days, but Begin exercised restraint and avoided reprimanding Navon.
His restraint likely stemmed from a sanctification of statehood and from the “honor” legacy he received from his teacher, Ze’ev Jabotinsky. As he thought about a “president,” a “general” or a “judge” in the Jewish state, the meaning of these titles in the Bible echoed in his head. People often quote the phrase he coined, “There are judges in Jerusalem,” which echoes an ancient glory too. It’s also possible that he remembered the long years he spent as the leader of a denounced and persecuted political minority, which is why he was considerate towards people with different views. Navon repaid Begin for his noble gesture and made sure to consult him whenever he was tasked with diplomatic missions.
A lot has changed since then. At the time, the Jewish population in the territories included about 0.5 percent of Israel’s Jews. Today, it’s almost 5 percent. The balance of power between left and right leaned sharply towards the right. Nevertheless, many citizens still distinguish between Israel’s victory in an imposed war and the use made of the victory’s loot. Those who belong to this stream are unable to celebrate the memory of our rescue, and at the same time the beginning of the settlement process which they believe will lead to our destruction.
There is a yawning chasm between those who are certain that the occupation is the beginning of our redemption and those who are afraid that it’s the bitter smile of history. The battle isn’t just between elites fighting over hegemonic status, but between completely different political cultures.
Under these conditions, the way to maintain an ounce of the national unity feeling is restraint, which also means saving on symbols. Overusing them ignites false arguments, while life itself is more placatory than the flags, the parades, the anthems, the ceremonies “in memory of” and the laws—a lot of laws whose only purpose is the win the national competition of “whose is bigger.”
Begin’s vulgar successors see this competition as their main mission. They strive, for example, to enact the nationality law which undermines the principles of the Declaration of Independence. The maniacs (Arabs, leftists and the rest of the traitors) will rejoice in the Jewish state’s celebrations against their will.
It’s hard to argue that Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor is part of this group of traitors. Legal experts agree that she is conservative in her rulings, and as we know, she is linked to one of the most “national” families, but the difficulty to defame her doesn’t deter those who see Benny Begin, the Zionist maximalist, as a subversive leftist.
Incidentally, state ceremonies marking an exciting historical event should be held in the presence of an enormous crowd, yet the Gush Etzion ceremony suffered from poor attendance and was watched on Channel 20 by only 1 percent of television viewers. It’s safe to assume that the low ratings weren’t caused by the Supreme Court justices’ absence from the ceremony.