Down, but far from out, former Silver Spring resident Dov Lipman said that despite his loss in Israel’s March 17th election, he intends to run for the Knesset again.
Lipman, who made aliyah with his family in 2004, vowed, “I am not going anywhere.” He intends to remain active with his political party, the centrist Yesh Atid, and other organizations to continue fighting for greater participation in Israeli life by the haredi, the plight of a person trying to obtain a Jewish divorce and an easier pathway for Americans and other westerners to settle into life in Israel once they’ve made aliyah.
While disappointed, Lipman said he was not surprised that he lost his seat. He was 14th on Yesh Atid’s slate, but the party won only 11 seats. He also held the 14th position in the previous election.
“I can’t point to any person in front of me [on Yesh Atid’s slate] and say ‘I deserve that place,’” he said. “To be even that close” to victory after only moving to Israel 10 years ago “is an honor,” he said, during a telephone interview that took place while his son, “a new driver,” drove home.
What does concern him is the rift the recent election appeared to widen in Israel’s relations with the United States, and in particular between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama.
“There is going to be a real problem. I am very, very, very concerned,” he said. Those problems, rather than lessened since Election Day, “are not going away. They seem to be worsening.”
While Israel’s new government is still being worked out, Lipman expressed concern that Israel’s next Knesset will be “more extreme right wing.”
Lipman does understand why Obama apparently took offense to Netanyahu’s lack of support right before the election for a two-state solution, calling it “really a smack in the face” to an administration that has been working toward a two-state solution.
But Lipman resents those Americans who condemned Netanyahu’s advice to voters to go out and vote because the Arabs were going to the polls in droves. “Everybody knows we are the only democracy in the Middle East,” and Americans shouldn’t involve themselves in internal Israeli matters. Americans wouldn’t want Israelis to talk about race relations and police shootings in America, he said.
Still, he believes the strong bond between the two countries remains. He said his is grateful for America’s support, and doesn’t take for granted the fact that non-Jews living in the middle of America, allow their tax dollars to go toward Israel’s security.
He said he’s learned a lot since entering the national arena. “The first thing you learn, you come into the Knesset, and you want to change the world, and then you suddenly realize there are so many [competing] interests,” he said.
He confessed to being frustrated early on, until he realized which members care about particular issues and who is for or against certain topics.
He came to realize that “the people who I disagree with ideologically” — the ones he used to cringe when listening to them on the news — “They are really wonderful people, and they really believe what they are doing is best for Israel,” he said.
After understanding the system, “I was able to make changes, substantial changes, for our country.” He estimated that during his first term he accomplished 30 percent of what he originally set out to do.
He is most proud of his work with the haredi community. As an Orthodox rabbi himself, Lipman believes studying Torah should not preclude anyone from being a part of Israeli society. He has worked to incorporate programs into the Israel Defense Forces that enable the very religious to study part of the day and perform military duties the rest of the day.
He has worked with companies to hire religious Jews who have not previously held jobs and said he now receives 500 resumes a month from those who were “living off state funding.”
But Lipman is disappointed with his lack of progress on the issue of Jewish divorces. His law that would have allowed the state to step in and take a person’s passport, driver’s license and work permit if a get was not given 30 days following a rabbinic court ruling, never passed.
Concern about corruption ate at Lipman throughout his term. Too many Knesset members vote without bothering to know what they are approving, Lipman said. Israeli government “needs in general far greater transparency.”
Lipman, who said he will keep at all these issues, decided last week not to apply for American citizenship, which he willfully renounced upon entering the Knesset. After all, he would just have to renounce it again when he is voted back in, he said.