Homeward bound? Israel tilts right as Naftali Bennet gains territory for Jewish Home party
In the Israeli political landscape, Naftali Bennett is only the most recent ultra-right conservative to espouse intolerance, racism and further usurpation of future Palestinian land. His background as an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) commando gives him credibility as a true patriot, and his net worth affords him the luxury of being seen as a savvy businessman. In Israeli terms, the man seems to be the second coming of the current PM, Benjamin Netanyahu.
I guess if that is what you are into, it’s appropriate to support the man. But the savvy voter ought to thoroughly examine Bennet’s ideology. Here are a few simple things that one must understand before casting their ballot on January 22.
The present makeup of Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party was born when it merged with a few smaller, failing right-wing outfits, such as Mafdal (National Religious Party). Prior to the merger, Mafdal was one of the main detractors to the Gaza Strip disengagement plan. Bennett and company continue to organize as hard lined proponents of forcing “Judaism” on Israel.
The political platform claimed to be for a democratic Israel, so long as democracy did not interfere with Judaism: keeping public transportation limited to six days a week, taking away the right of certain food establishments to serve non-kosher food, not recognizing non-Jewish holidays of the national minorities, and so on. This is something the West seems to be wholly against when it comes to Sharia law, but Israel is able to get away with this move, due to its use of the word “democracy”, albeit a democracy in the most obscure and forced sense.
The only redeeming quality I can see in Naftali Bennett is the controversy surrounding his policies towards conversion and civil marriages. Bennett and some of his constituents, namely the ever-contentious Ayelet Shaked , hope for a chance to ease the some of the processes which hard-lined orthodox rabbis have had a stranglehold since the countries inception. The details are not fully clear, but the discussion is being had on how to make it easier for those who wish to convert to Judaism within Israel and for something that would resemble civil marriage, rather than the required Jewish mandated marriages. The only downfall of these “progressive” policies is that this does not seem to simply be a generous move by Bennett. He is consumed with increasing the Jewish population within Israel proper and the illegally occupied territories. Nonetheless, the discussion has stirred some otherwise far right, religious zealots to potentially support a party with semi-progressive social ideas and a self-proclaimed secularist (Shaked). I suppose we must take the good with the bad?
To make matters more horrifying, Bennett served as the Director General of the Yesha council—an organization that since the June 1967 War has been one of the leading parties in promoting settlements within future Palestinian lands as a means to fulfilling biblical prophecies and returning Jews to all of their “God-given land.” There is a certain sense of irony in the fact that Bennett does not even live in one of the settlements. No, he resides (according to what I am told) in a very posh home in Ra’anana, an upscale suburb north of Tel Aviv. Is that a joke, Mr. Bennett?
The name of Bennett’s party was decided by an online poll. The voters chose “the Jewish Home.” One does not need to be a scholar of Middle Eastern history to understand how this not-so-subtle title chooses to include only Jews in the State of Israel. The other options were “Roots” (a seemingly unassuming name, unless you understand that Bennett believes only Jews have the right to roots in Israel), “Independence” (independence from whom?), “Whole” (an obvious allusion to Israel’s necessity to occupy the whole of ancient Jewish land), and my personal favorite, “My Nation Lives.”All of the names sponsored by Bennett, adopt a tone lacking inclusion of the second largest and largest populations in Israel proper and the occupied territories, respectively.
Lastly, I had the displeasure of meeting Naftali Bennett a little more than a year ago at a debate series. Not only does the man’s arrogance get the best of him, but he is simply an unlikable figure. His very demeanor is deplorable and his matter-of-fact posturing makes him difficult to listen to. In the one and a half hour debate, the man spoke in circles, constantly contradicted himself, and never addressed any of the issues that were put forth by the debate’s platform. His overall message was that Arabs are impossible to deal with and even more impossible to live with.
Yet the most contradictory aspect of his platform, based on his open distaste for Palestinians and what they stand for, is that he is hoping to further intertwine Israel’s interests with Palestinians by annexing nearly sixty percent of the West Bank! The question one must ask Mr. Bennett is then, if it is so difficult to deal or live with Palestinians, why would Israel like to force itself into a situation that makes it impossible to be Jewish and a democracy in the most basic sense of the term? His answer: the Bible says so.
Well, Naftali Bennett, I disagree and I hope voters in Israel do too, come Tuesday, Israeli election day.
What do you think of Naftali Bennett? Do you think he woruld steal Israel further to the right? Does he stand a chance in Tuesday's elections?
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Bawaba's editorial policy.