A tactical setback or a strategic defeat?

Last week’s Chief Rabbinate elections could be either, depending on what religious Zionists do next.

By
July 29, 2013 15:05
Rabbi David Stav

Rabbi David Stav. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)

 
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The sweeping haredi victory in last week’s Chief Rabbinate elections is being portrayed as a devastating defeat for the religious Zionist community in general, and for Naftali Bennett in particular as head of the Bayit Yehudi party, which represents this community. In one sense, that’s true: In the races for both Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis, the winning candidate received only a plurality of the electoral panel’s votes – 68 out of 147. Thus had the religious Zionist community been able to unite behind a single Ashkenazi candidate instead of splitting its votes between two, that candidate might have won. Similarly, had it chosen a Sephardi candidate with broad appeal rather than one who repelled moderate electors because of his history of anti-Arab remarks, such a candidate might have won the votes that went instead to the moderate haredi rabbi who placed third. And since the chief rabbis serve 10-year terms, religious Zionists have squandered a once-in-a-decade opportunity.

Nevertheless, Bennett still holds cards that enable him to make this loss a tactical setback rather than a strategic defeat. The question is whether he’s willing to play them – and whether he can mobilize the requisite support from his own party and his coalition partners.

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