Open Advice for Naftali Bennett

April 9, 2015

2 min read

David Rubin

Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) party leader Naftali Bennett has a serious dilemma. After a disappointing election in which almost half of Jewish Home’s natural electorate voted for competing parties, there is a need for self-reflection to eventually return the national religious and traditional voters to their natural home base in the only firmly religious Zionist party.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud, ostensibly to save himself from defeat by Isaac Herzog’s Zionist Union (Labor), worked hard and succeeded at coercing thousands of Jewish Home voters to ignore their interests and to vote Likud. This happened despite Netanyahu’s long history of aiding the Palestinian Terrorist Authority, stifling Jewish growth, especially in Samaria, but also in Judea and eastern Jerusalem, and fighting indecisive wars against Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The other lost votes went mainly to Shas renegade Eli Yishai’s Yachad party, which failed to even pass the Knesset threshold.

The coalition negotiations are now underway and Bennett is understandably upset that Netanyahu, despite his pre-election promises to the national-religious public, has been (once again) keeping Jewish Home at arm’s length. The Defense portfolio seems to be reserved for Moshe Ya’alon, whose needed signature was rarely available for Jewish building permits in Judea and Samaria, but who happily provided substantial technical and financial support for the new “Palestinian Arab” city, Rawabi, recently established in the heart of Samaria. Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry seems to be reserved for Avigdor Liberman, whose Yisrael Beytenu party received only six seats in the current Knesset, as opposed to Jewish Home’s eight.

While Defense would certainly be the most powerful ministry for Jewish Home, as well as a springboard for future electoral gains, the highly verbal Foreign Ministry is not as desirable as it may seem. Yes, Naftali Bennett would be a great spokesman for Israel, with a positive, unapologetic style. He would also be able to speak English well to the world media, unlike Liberman. On the other hand, his words could be easily neutralized by PM Netanyahu, who would fear being undermined from the right, and therefore, would use his selected emissaries to undermine Bennett.

Jewish Home should demand full control over the Education Ministry, as well as Religious Affairs, and at least a deputy ministerial role in the Justice Ministry. Education is an opportunity to prove that it can deliver to its many frustrated voters who saw the national religious and traditional public suffer from Yair Lapid’s across the board cuts to religious education.  Likewise, control of Religious Affairs under Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan would continue the critical process of strengthening a Zionist presence in the official rabbinate and opening up its services to the wider public.

As for the Justice ministry, the Supreme Court, in its past and current composition, has proven itself to be a post-Zionist barrier to reasonable Jewish settlement and defense. This is primarily due to its self-perpetuating selection process, which in any democratic system should have been done away with a long time ago. A strong Jewish Home presence in Justice would have an impact in making the necessary reforms to democratize the process.

Last but not least, Jewish Home needs to boldly look after its own voting public’s interests, no less than Shas or UTJ. Otherwise, its voters will continue to drift elsewhere. It doesn’t make one “parochial” to faithfully represent one’s voters. Yes, try to branch outward, but without the base of national-religious support and enthusiasm, the entire ship will collapse.

Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News

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