In God Regev trusts… to deliver Likud - analysis

Over the last weekend, Regev, who is not religiously observant, said that it was God that decides elections and no one else.

Miri Regev talks about cultural loyalty bill at press conference. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Miri Regev talks about cultural loyalty bill at press conference.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
“My help comes from God, maker of Heaven and Earth,” appears to be Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev’s new political strategy, as she tours the country canvassing for votes ahead of the September 17 election.
That at least is the impression given her current messaging strategy which is heavy on appeals for heavenly assistance and the expectation of divine intervention to help the Likud Party and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to electoral victory.
Last weekend, Regev, who is not religiously observant, said that God alone decides elections. On Sunday, she declared her pride in both Jewish heritage and to be “one who kisses mezuzahs,” a reference to an infamous speech by artist Yair Garbuz in which he denounced “the kissers of amulets,” among others.
Regev also took to the plaza of the Western Wall on Sunday to launch the Likud’s mobile bus studio which is touring the country during the election campaign. There she declaimed, “We lift our eyes upwards and request from the Creator of the world to protect us and look out for the Jewish people,” and called on Likud supporters to “be part of our journey, the journey of the Jewish people, of the Likud, for unity.
“God willing, we will do it and will succeed,” she concluded devoutly in a video she posted on social media.
In truth, Regev’s God-laden rhetoric is not something new, but a style she has developed over the last four years, during which she spoke out against infrastructure construction work on Shabbat, reversed herself on support for a government recognized egalitarian prayer section at the Western Wall, and in general emphasized her traditionalist credentials.
Regev has however ramped up her rhetoric during the current election campaign, and the explanation is relatively simple: the Likud needs to protect its base of religiously traditional but not strictly observant working class voters, mostly of Sephardi heritage, and find ways to prevent  those voters from going to other parties.
As was the case in April, the Blue and White Party is again Likud’s main challenger in this election. The center-left opposition has been emphasizing its right-wing credentials on several issues to attract moderate voters from the Likud.
To counter the desertion of Likud voters to Blue and White, Likud has harped on the alleged lack of attachment to Jewish tradition, values and identity of parties not declaratively on the right wing.
For the left wingers and liberals in Blue and White, particularly from its Yesh Atid constituent party, discussion of Jewish tradition and heritage is often uncomfortable. Many of the candidates on the party list have a secularist and liberal world view which is foreign to that of Likud’s base.
Regev, who has a similar background to such voters, is the perfect candidate to underline her affinity to the Likud electorate and its cultural values.
Regev’s copious references to God, and the lathering of her public comments in appeals to Jewish tradition and identity, is a function of this strategy.
Her video from the Western Wall on Sunday was particularly instructive where she not only illustrated her connection to Jewish heritage, but also called on Likud voters to meet up with the party candidates “in the periphery, in the north and south and in the neighborhoods,” regions where there are large centers of the Likud’s working class, traditionalist base.
Issues surrounding religious and national identity have become one of the defining points of the political tribalism that has beset the country’s politics in recent years, and one of the primary accusations of the right wing against the left is that it has abandoned Jewish values and identity.
The fact that Regev is highlighting her commitment to traditional and Jewish national values appears intentionally designed to accentuate those cultural and tribal dividing lines in this most politically bifurcated of times.