Bennett sizing up imaginary sandwich 370.
(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)
A decade ago, Shas and United Torah Judaism took revenge against the National
Religious Party for joining a coalition without haredi parties by taking away
control of the institution most dear to religious Zionists: the Chief
Ten years later, the haredim took revenge again for being left
out of the government and its coffers, but this time the victory is much
Beating a party led by a political lightweight like Zevulun
Orlev does not compare to beating a heavyweight with prime-ministerial
aspirations like Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett.
Just six months
ago, Bennett was on top of the world after winning more Knesset mandates than
Shas. Several weeks later, he took over plum portfolios, including the Religious
Services Ministry. He conspired with Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid to do what
Lapid’s father, the late Shinui leader Tommy Lapid, did with Orlev – kick the
Now Bennett, who promised to make Judaism in general and religious
services in particular palatable to the public again, has seen his world turn to
black – the color worn by his political rivals in the haredi parties. All the
“revolutions” promised by Bennett’s candidates, David Stav and Shmuel Eliyahu,
have been shelved for at least another decade.
Bennett’s deputy in the
Religious Services Ministry, Eli Ben-Dahan, told The Jerusalem Post moments
after results were announced that he saw no connection between what happened now
and 10 years ago. His response indicated how unprepared his party was for the
vote, completely underestimating the appetite for revenge among the haredim who
made up a sizable portion of the voting body.
In a close race, it is
often the hungrier contestant who wins – the party that needed to win badly. In
this case those parties were United Torah Judaism, whose MK Meir Porush
handcuffed himself to the Knesset lectern out of frustration, and Shas, led by
its new leader Arye Deri.
Deri had to win the race for Shas mentor Rabbi
Ovadia Yosef in his first test as the party’s uncontested leader following
Yosef’s ouster of former chairman Eli Yishai. The 92-year-old rabbi called
mayors in the voting body and cried to them not to embarrass him by letting his
son Yitzhak lose.
Now no matter how long Yosef lives, his legacy can live
on through his son, who wrote 40 books about his father’s Torah teachings and
headed a yeshiva called Hazon (“The Vision of”) Ovadia.
Shas has also
gained a new lease on life and now has more of a chance of outliving its
Former chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau also emerged
victorious, creating his own dynasty. His son David ascended to his former post,
replacing a rabbi whom he detested, Yonah Metzger.
But the biggest winner
in the race is neither Yosef, nor Lau, nor even Deri.
It is Prime
Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who wanted to see Bennett suffer such a humiliating
Netanyahu’s close ally and former campaign manager, Modi’in Mayor
Haim Bibas, worked tirelessly for Lau.
When the results were announced,
the prime minister immediately called the rabbis to congratulate them and invite
them to Torah study sessions at his house.
So the haredim and the prime
minister got their revenge by electing Lau and Yosef in a polarizing race. Now
it is up to the new chief rabbis to prove themselves to not only an electorate
of 150 people but to the Jewish people in Israel and around the world. •