Bayit Yehudi, established circa 68 CE, is an important political party. It has 12 seats in the Knesset, won 9.1 percent of the popular vote, represent a majority of the settlers constituency and is a core member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s ruling coalition.
Bayit Yehudi is no more to the Right than the majority of the Likud faction, so any attempt to portray Bayit Yehudi’s MKs as “right-wing extremists” insults the Likud.
Bayit Yehudi, true to its origins, thinks of the European Union as the reincarnation of the Roman Empire. The Romans spoke some version of Greek-Latin, but these Europeans, they speak German. German.
Yes, John Kerry is a latent anti-Semite according to the right wing, but the real enemy is the European Union – ever since 70 CE, through the Inquisition, pogroms, persecutions and the Fascist-Nazi era.
Bayit Yehudi is essentially a coalition of parties, closely resembling Monty Python’s Life of Brian (Cohen)’s The People’s Front of Judea, the Judean People’s Front, the Judean Popular People’s Front, the Campaign for a Free Galilee and the Popular Front of Judea.
If you think this is a joke, explain its pontificating, rude, crude, self-aggrandizing and silly outburst the other day at the Knesset, during the speech of Martin Schultz, the president of the European Parliament. Schultz, a German SPD politician and long-time friend of Israel, made an unfortunate and annoyingly false remark: He quoted a Palestinian youth who claimed that Palestinians get only a fourth of the water quota that Israelis get from water resources inside Judea and Samaria/West Bank. That implies not only Israeli occupation, but blatant colonialism, resource looting and deep injustice.
The ratio is far lower than that. But by referencing inaccurate information, Schultz undermined his otherwise extraordinary pro-Israeli remarks, his unequivocal opposition to European sanctions and boycotts and his contrite attitude to Israel as a German.
But the story is not the remark Schultz made. The story was the coarse and sanctimonious reaction by the Bayit Yehudi faction, headed by Minister Naftali Bennett.
They shouted their arguments in anger, claiming Schultz doesn’t understand the “Covenant of the Pieces,” the political arrangement God made with Abraham promising him, in Genesis 15:1-15, he’d one day inherit the Land of Israel. They then left the building. Elvis style.
By Bayit Yehudi’s convenient interpretation, the covenant not only serves as their political-ideological platform, but is overriding proof that there is no such thing as a “Palestinian people.” Ergo there cannot be a “Palestinian state.” Or in simpler words, what is John Kerry thinking? Why is Martin Schultz buying into an argument made by a non-entity called “The Palestinians.”
A core Zionist cannot ignore the Covenant of the Pieces. Intellectually, theologically, archeologically and historically it is the reason we returned to Zion rather than to Uganda. It is the reason Israel is where it is and not between the Hudson and East rivers.
But the covenant, and its political expressions like Bayit Yehudi, and to a large degree Mr. Netanyahu himself, is not a political plan. It is not a blueprint. It is not Machiavelli’s The Prince.
Yes, it is the spiritual cradle of our civilization.
No, it does not and cannot defy reality.
It is why we are here, but it does not define sovereignty or constitute foreign policy.
Which is why Bayit Yehudi’s reaction to Schultz was a sign of weakness rather than of pride, exuded hysteria rather than pinning him for his mistake. It emitted fear and ghetto-like anxieties instead of self-confidence. Israel is a strong, powerful country that can withstand criticism, fair or unfair. Israel can counter and contrast the Palestinian narrative without feeling constantly victimized. The world is a nasty place, but it is not “against us.”
Do the global population math. Most of the world is oblivious to and fatigued with thinking about Israel. It is not “against.”
Israel, believe it or not, can survive a claim made by Schultz with the best of intentions.
But the real gem wasn’t the vociferous protest against Schultz’s lack of familiarity with the Covenant. It was Naftali Bennett mumbling (echoed later by some others) that such accusations against Israel, inside the Israeli parliament were uttered in German, no less. That, symbolically, adds insult to injury and makes a political-informational issue into an emotional and historic hot potato. How dare you criticize Israel in German? Hebrew, English and even Swedish is fine. But German? Bennett knows (I think, but am not sure) that Germany is Israel’s greatest ally, aside from the US. Germany stands by Israel in the EU against heavy pressure all around. Germany provided Israel with six Dolphin-class submarines, equipped with a wide array of offensive capabilities that are critical to Israel in a future conflict in far places. Playing on the sensitive connotation of “He said it in German” is cheap.
Bayit Yehudi has a constituency and an ideology, both of which were served by the stand-up show at the Knesset on Wednesday.
The question is, how do they benefit by rekindling Masada? How does Israel benefit from an infatuation with being isolated? What good comes from constantly repeating “They are all against us”? What possible political advantage can be attained by pretending that this is 68 or 73 CE all over again? The writer was consul-general in New York and adviser to four foreign ministers. He is currently a fellow at the Israel Policy Forum.