Bennett’s ultimatum: Religious affairs portfolio to join government

"We will return the religious portfolio to the Religious Zionists," Bennett wrote on Twitter Tuesday.

Naftali Bennett (photo credit: REUTERS)
Naftali Bennett
(photo credit: REUTERS)
New Right leader Naftali Bennett has said that his party will demand the religious services ministry  for New Right in any government it might be part of after the coming election.
Bennett wrote on Twitter Tuesday night that New Right would “bring back the religious services portfolio to religious-Zionism,” in reference to the fact that for many years it was the religious-Zionist National Religious Party, that ran this ministry and not one of the ultra-Orthodox parties as has become customary over the last two decades.
“Our tradition and our heritage need to become the glue of unity, not a battle field,” continued Bennett, referencing the numerous and frequent political conflicts that have arisen in recent years over religion and state matters.
“We need to bring back Judaism that draws people in; for kashrut, marriage, conversion, everything,” he said.
During the last election, New Right ran together with Bayit Yehudi and National Union who are fiercely conservative on religious issues such as marriage and conversion, as well as the standing and status of the Chief Rabbinate.
The parties therefore downplayed religion and state issues in their campaign because of the sharp divides between them.
New Right co-founder Ayelet Shaked, who led the joint ticket, even told The Jerusalem Post in an interview ahead of the September election that she did not support civil marriage, and would only say that watered-down versions of the idea, such as civil partnerships “could be discussed.”
Shaked also said that she believed the debate over religion and state issues was overblown and that a “glass half full, not half empty” attitude was needed when examining such matters.
In the upcoming election, Bayit Yehudi, National Union, and the far-right Otzma Yehudit, which is equally hardline on religious issues, will likely all run together.
Since religious hardliners in the religious-Zionist community comprise only about 15 to 20 percent of the sector, Bennett likely sees a good opportunity now to siphon off more votes from those parties.
Writing on Facebook, Shaked said she had been thinking about the late Bayit Yehudi MK Uri Orbach who she said had been “a symbol of an unapologetic Judaism but one which also embraces people.”
Continued Shaked “I very much value the ultra-Orthodox community, but the State of Israel deserves a religious-Zionist chief rabbi who knows how to connect and how to mitigate the tensions we have, when on the one hand people are shouting about ‘religiousification’ and on the other we are not finding ways to attract [non-Jewish Israelis of Jewish descent] to convert.
“There is a middle way, and that is the path of Uri Orbach, the path of a welcoming Judaism. And that is what we are trying to do.”