Four days before the Passover holiday, MK Bezalel Smotrich, the leader of the Religious Zionist Party, called for members of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s coalition to be ejected from synagogues.
“Someone who joins the radical left harming everything”
“I maintain that anyone who is part of this government doesn’t need to be brought into a synagogue,” he said during an interview with Kan public radio. “It’s the most legitimate thing in the world.”
“Someone who lies cheats, and steals votes. Someone who joins the radical left harming everything holy in Israel. Someone who sold out the state to the Islamic Movement and now will do the same to the terror supporters in the Joint List is certainly not worthy of being in the congregation; that’s completely legitimate,” Smotrich added.
“I think people who turn their back on the public should feel unwanted,” he added.
Later in the interview, he softened his words, explaining that he was describing what he thought would be the natural reaction of religious right-wing voters who were feeling betrayed by Bennett forming a coalition with left-wing and Arab parties.
He later tweeted a disclaimer:
“Everyone is invited to the synagogues, of course, but it is amazing to see those who joined the enemies of Israel to win an internal dispute between brothers within the Jewish people, [they also] boycott half of the people, despise them with derogatory nicknames like “Bibi’ists” and “Smotriches,” [all while they talk] about unity. And then cry when they do not receive applause among the public to which they lied and turned their backs.”
It should be noted that Bennett is Israel’s first prime minister who wears a kippah and presumably goes to synagogue regularly.
Bennett slammed Smotrich in return during a government conference asking, “Will a Jew boycott another Jew in a synagogue? That’s what destroyed our state 2,000 years ago,” he said, referring to the destruction of the Second Temple.
Others may choose to respond to Bennett that the Hasmonean revolt to retake Israel was opposed by Jews who allied with the enemy of Israel.
“We have rightly forgotten that we have a nation, a good nation, a positive nation, a nation that volunteers and assists,” Bennett said.
“Leftists love the country not a millimeter less than me,” Bennett said. “I don’t have a monopoly on the love of the Land of Israel, just as there is no monopoly on the love of mankind or the love of peace. It is very beautiful to say, ‘we all love each other – but we will not sit with them'”.
“I am a right-wing man, and there are left-wing people in the government; we have completely different opinions. But you know what I found out? People with very different opinions also love the State of Israel and this country.”
Bennett’s coalition is threatened since Idit Silman, the leader of the coalition and a member of the Knesset for Bennett’s Yamina party, announced last week that she will join the opposition over her objections to a Health Ministry instruction that hospitals do not enforce kashrut restrictions during the upcoming Passover holiday.
Without Silman in the coalition, the government will lose its majority in the Knesset, falling from 61 seats to 60, potentially enabling the Opposition to veto any coalition bills. In the wake of Silman’s departure from the coalition, it is expected that Bennett, who was elected on a right-wing ticket, will need to rely more heavily on the Arab and extreme left-wing parties. For Silman to topple the government, she must join with two other coalition members to form a new party. Thus far, she is joined only by one – another member of Bennett’s own Yamina Party -Amichai Shikli, who had refused to back the coalition since it was established.
Other dissatisfied right-wing lawmakers could take this opportunity to join Silman and Shikli.
Alternatively, Yamina could declare Silman and Shikli to be dissenting lawmakers and oust them from the party. They would be barred from running in the next election under any party currently part of the Knesset.