Into the Fray: Bennett’s buddy. Or blunder?
In the interests of full disclosure, I voted for Naftali Bennett’s party in the recent election. But I am beginning to wonder...
Bennett et Lapid, une alliance qui fait enrager le Likoud. Photo: Photomontage/Marc Israël Sellem/The Jerusalem Post
Have you thought what will happen if you succeed [in preventing the
disengagement from Gaza]. Don’t you understand that if it happens we will
disengage from you. We will say, “Your God is not our God, your land is not our
Land.”Do you suppose we will simply give up what we see as our only
chance for a normal life. Have you any idea how you will live in a country in
which most of its inhabitants feel they have to sacrifice their lives – day
after day, terror attack after terror attack – for you. – Yair Lapid, “To: The
Opponents of disengagement,” June 24, 2005.
It [the disengagement] had
nothing to do with the Palestinians, demography, the desire to make peace, the
relative [fatigue] of the IDF, or any other explanation that was given. There
was a totally different motivation behind the disengagement. The Israelis
merely felt that the settlers should be taught a lesson in humility and perhaps
in democracy, too. – Yair Lapid, “Things we couldn’t say during disengagement,”
May 15, 2006.
In the interests of full disclosure, I voted for Naftali
Bennett’s party in the recent election. But I am beginning to
Vote Bennett, get German?
After all, when I cast my ballot for
Bennett, I didn’t realize that Yael German, former Meretz member, or Ofer
Shelah, the decidedly left-wing former journalist, were of part of the deal. But
this is precisely the situation that has been created by Bennett’s decision to
march in lock-step on the issue of national service for the ultra-Orthodox with
Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid list, in which German and Shelah are in the No. 3 and No.
6 slots, respectively.
I am confident that many supporters of Bennett’s
Bayit Yehudi were unaware that they were voting for a“package deal with Lapid’s
Yesh Atid, in which Bennett would condition his participation in a Netanyahuled
government on Lapid’s participation.
Had they believed that this was a
tangible possibility, it is highly plausible that a considerable number of them,
myself included, might well have voted differently.
By insisting on the
acceptance of both his and Lapid’s demand regarding universal conscription of
the ultra-Orthodox into national service as the sine qua non for his agreeing to
join the coalition, Bennett is grossly distorting the will of his voters, and
abusing the mandate given him by them.
Right goal, wrong tactic
misunderstand me. I think it is essential to enlist the ultra-Orthodox into the
military, or at least some form of national service.
Since the early
1990s I have been urging right-wing parties to make this one of their declared
policy aims, and warning that the failure to take the initiative on this issue
was a massive blunder.
The current situation of mass exemption is both
immoral and illogical and hence unacceptable, and without becoming ensnared in a
discussion on details and the desired rate of implementation, I strongly endorse
the initiative to induce, even coerce, far greater haredi participation in the
workforce, the military and other national organs.
But as important as
this matter is, it was not the cardinal issue for which Bennett and Bayit Yehudi
were given the support they received. The primary banner that Bennett’s
constituency rallied around was his opposition to Palestinian statehood,
opposition which he was slated to spearhead.
This was the fundamental
reason that many, including me, supported his party – despite grave
reservations, some of which I have expressed on this page, concerning his
operational proposal on how this should be undertaken.
True, Bennett and
Bayit Yehudi are to be commended for it not being a narrow singleissue faction,
and for presenting a multifaceted platform, addressing several vitally important
socioeconomic problems plaguing Israeli society. However, these were never
perceived or presented, prior to the elections, as being imperatives that had to
be satisfactorily addressed before the party participated in a Likud-led
Certainly, voters were never put on notice that such
participation was predicated on the approval of Yesh Atid on any issue –
including the ultra-Orthodox one, a.k.a. “sharing/equalizing the
Right goal, perverse partner?
Whatever the manifest moral merits
and potential political profits entailed in pushing for a more equitable sharing
of the national burden, Lapid is a dubious – some might say, perverse – partner
with whom to lock arms on this issue.
For unlike Bennett, who served as
an officer in some of the IDF’s most elite special forces units, Lapid can
hardly be presented as “leading by example.”
After all, despite being
physically fit enough to engage in regular martial arts training, he elected to
“share the burden” of military service as a reporter for the IDF journal,
Bamahane – hardly the most arduous or hazardous “tour of duty” – which laid the
foundation, at the taxpayers’ expense, for his subsequent successful
Now, while I am not implying that noncombatant
service in general, and service in one of the IDF media organs in particular, is
to be denigrated or dismissed, it can hardly be denied that Lapid’s personal
history imparts a rather hollow – some might say, hypocritical – ring to his
shrill castigation of haredi avoidance of “bearing the burden.”
it makes him a highly unsuited – some might say, absurd – choice for the poster
boy leading the charge for the ultra- Orthodox conscription.
Moreover, it must not be forgotten that Yesh Atid was born largely
as a Center-Left party, and was billed as such in the election campaign. Indeed,
alliances with Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yacimovich were pursued – albeit
unsuccessfully. Much of Yesh Atid’s support came from last-minute ballots cast
by a large bloc of hitherto undecided voters, who do not comprise committed
hard-core party devotees.
As one veteran pundit put it, it was less a
vote for Lapid and more a vote against all the others. It is far from
implausible that many of the last-minute supporters were swayed by the un-dovish
views – particularly on Jerusalem – in Yesh Atid’s manifesto, which are very
different from those previously expressed – repeatedly – by Lapid himself, while
gearing for his political career.
However, the views of Lapid’s core
constituency, which allowed him to launch his party, as well as those of many of
his Knesset members, reflect left to center-left political preferences –
particularly on the issue of Palestinian statehood.
This is the political
DNA of Yesh Atid, and as such it is incompatible with that of Bayit Yehudi –
despite the alleged like-mindedness said to prevail between the parties on other
Thus, while Bayit Yehudi issued a very upbeat announcement
Thursday, declaring complete consensus and coordination with Yesh Atid, I would
be highly skeptical as to whether such consensus/coordination extends to the
cardinal issue at the center of the respective DNAs of the parties: The issue of
Moreover, even on issues on which such
consensus/coordination is said to prevail, I foresee future
For Lapid’s core constituency, the demand for haredi
conscription is a great drum to beat – so long as it remains unfulfilled. For I
have a very strong suspicion – corroborated by recent pronouncements by several
prominent left-wing figures – that if it were to begin to emerge as a tangible
prospect, the biggest opponents to it would be many of those who demand it most
After all, the last thing Lapid’s “core” wants to see
is battalions of bearded ultra-Orthodox enlistees with M-16s slung menacingly
over their shoulders.
Bennett’s embrace of Lapid is
even more inappropriate and inexplicable in light of the latter’s continued and
repeated vilification of a major segment of Bayit Yehudi’s sources of support:
The residents of communities in Judea and Samaria, a.k.a. – pejoratively – as
Lapid consistently used his widely read Friday column in
Yediot Aharonot to besmirch, berate and belittle them. The introductory above
excerpts are but a small sampling of his frequent endeavors to denigrate,
demonize and delegitimize the Jews living across the 1967 Green Line, in the
most malevolent – and at times, manifestly mendacious – manner.
example, in a masterpiece of malice titled “This land isn’t Israel” (August 19,
2008), he begins by declaring that, three years after its perpetration, Israelis
should be proud of the disengagement because – wait for it – “it turned out that
the state is still able to implement something once it decides to do
No kidding – check it out on Google. He then proceeds to
“excommunicate” the “settlers/ settlements” – the main blocs of which he now
perversely purports to embrace – from Israeli society, writing “They define the
place they live in as ‘not Israel.’ This is a lawless land, lacking respect,
where people who are different than us live and conduct themselves in line with
codes we don’t understand.
It is a land that has rejected all the basic
values that hold us together.”
He concludes in a tone of vindictive
vitriol: “These people create a situation whereby, when the day comes, and the
agreements are signed on the lawn in Washington, it will be easier to give up
this land, which isn’t really ours; this land where not only the laws and
landscape are different, but also the people.”
Naftali, get a grip!
another diatribe of disingenuous drivel, “Stop blaming disengagement” (January
20, 2009), Lapid launches into an absurd apologia for the unilateral abandonment
Subjecting his hapless readers to a partisan potpourri of the
preposterous, the puerile and the pathetic, he sallies forth on a toxic tirade,
endeavoring somehow to reinstate the lost honor of the disengagement, whose
implementation he supported with such fervor.
You have to read to
Flying in the face of facts, he vigorously denies that the
disengagement had brought about any perceptible increase in the levels of
shelling of Israel or in tunneling/smuggling activity under the Philadelphi
Corridor between Sinai and Gaza. For while both shelling and smuggling did exist
before the 2005 unilateral withdrawal, the difference in the severity of the
realities confronting Israel in the pre- and post-disengagement eras are so
stark, that to suggest there is any equivalence between them is as ludicrous as
to claim that a mild cold and terminal pneumonia are similar because they can
both be diagnosed viral infections.
With infuriating disregard for
empirical events, he speculates: “So there is a possibility – and it is even a
realistic one – that had it not been for the disengagement, our situation today
would have been much worse.”
Then, with breathtaking effrontery, he goes
onto assail the critics of the disengagement: “[They] don’t care, because they
are not interested in the truth, but rather, in the opportunity to exploit the
pain and sorrow over today’s victims in order to avert the next evacuation. And
to that end, it is ok to lie, and to smear, and to come up with false
Clearly, if he were to replace the word “avert” with the word
“induce,” he would have – with perfect accuracy – described himself.
Naftali, this is your faithful comrade-inpolitical- arms? One with whom you have
elected to form an unbreakable pact? Get a grip!
Gives incompetence a bad name
It is a pact whose only tangible result so far has been to ensconce Tzipi Livni,
a politician who has brought incompetence to previously unattained levels, at
the head of the crucially important Justice Ministry and of the negotiating team
with the Palestinians. Both as foreign minister and head of Kadima, she has
shown that no outcome is too disastrous for her to accomplish.
difficult to overstate the gravity Livni’s appointment might have for Bennett’s
It virtually ensures the continued animosity of the legal
establishment toward the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria and makes the
possibility of adoption of the Levy Report, endorsing the settlements’ legality,
But worse, it diminishes the chances of much-needed reforms
to restore the rapidly eroding public confidence in the judiciary and to
increase the transparency of funding of Israeli NGOs by foreign governments –
both urgently required initiatives, perversely decried by Livni-supportive
circles as undemocratic.
Moreover, whatever her substantive authority to
advance initiatives with the Palestinians, her formal appointment as head of the
negotiation team can only raise the profile the two-state notion, and put
greater wind in the sails of its proponents in the media, at home and abroad –
especially in light of the inevitable pressure that will accompany Barack
Obama’s imminent visit.
Beware a pyrrhic victory
Bennett’s behavior in
forming a seamless bond with the likes of Lapid seems to betray a serious lack
of judgment. For even if he succeeds in attaining victory on the haredi front,
he may well sustain a disastrous defeat on the Palestinian one.
well live to rue such a pyrrhic triumph.
(www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel
Institute for Strategic Studies.