Blue and White to target moderate religious-Zionist vote after Right unites

“There is a great lack of ethics in the way corruption has been discussed as something trivial, and setting a personal example as something trivial,” said Hendel.

July 31, 2019 10:49
4 minute read.
 Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel at a recent parlour meeting for the religious-Zionist community

Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel at a recent parlour meeting for the religious-Zionist community. (photo credit: BLUE AND WHITE PARTY)

The Blue and White party is set to embark on a campaign to attract moderate religious-Zionist voters, following the unity deal on Monday between the liberal New Right party and the hardliners of Bayit Yehudi and National Union.

Religious-Zionist candidates in Blue and White believe liberal religious-Zionist voters will be turned off by the strongly conservative nature of the Bayit Yehudi and National Union leadership and representatives, and could further bolster support for Benny Gantz’s party from the sector.

According to Blue and White MK Yoaz Hendel, the party took approximately two Knesset seats worth of votes from religious-Zionist voters in the April election, and the new political circumstances create the potential to gain even more voters from the mainstream, as well as the liberal, parts of the community in the September poll.

The campaign will be headed by Hendel together with religious-Zionist MKs Elazar Stern, Yehiel Tropper, and Orit Farkash-Hacohen, and will target specific communities where moderate religious-Zionists live, such as Givat Shmuel, Raanana, Rehovot and Modiin, among others.

Hendel said that religious-Zionists in the Israeli-Anglo community would also be another community to which Blue and White will appeal for votes.

The campaign will include targeted ads on religious-Zionist websites and digital platforms, as well as parlour meetings and events specifically in the strongholds of moderate religious-Zionist voters.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday, Hendel said that one of the primary focuses of the campaign would be to place Blue and White as advocates for the traditional “state-oriented” philosophy of the religious-Zionist sector, which he said has been eroded in recent years by hardline rabbis, politicians, and various organizations harshly criticizing state institutions in public, such as the IDF, the Shin Bet, the state attorney’s office and others.

Hendel added that the tolerance of corruption by some figures in the sector was another aspect of the erosion of this state oriented philosophy.

He pointed specifically to the defense of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by senior religious-Zionist leader Rabbi Eli Sadan, who opined in 2017 that Netanyahu was being brought down for “taking a cigarette” in reference to the criminal investigation alleging that the prime minister received as much as NIS 1 million in illegal gifts.

“There is a great lack of ethics in the way corruption has been discussed as something trivial, and setting a personal example as something trivial,” said Hendel.

“A state-oriented philosophy, integrity, setting a personal example, these are the values which the religious-Zionist community was educated on and we cannot give up on them.”

The MK said the excuse for positions defending corruption was always politically based so as to keep the right in power and preserve Israel’s hold on all of “the Land of Israel,” but argued that this was not justifiable.

“What kind of Land of Israel is this? The Land of Israel is very important, to me no less than anyone else, but the State of Israel is important too.”

In terms of policies and religion and state issues, Hendel said that the agenda of the religious-Zionist community on such issues was simply not being advanced by the current religious parties.

“The interest of the religious-Zionist community is not to let the ultra-Orthodox have a monopoly in the Chief Rabbinate and to let religion and state issues become the target of hate for all Israelis so that the number of marriages through the Chief Rabbinate decreases as we have seen in recent years,” he said.

The Blue and White MK said that his party would work through the education ministry to support, encourage and incentivize young women from the religious-Zionist sector to enlist to the IDF, a phenomenon that has been fiercely resisted by hardline rabbinic leaders.

He said that the party would also advance efforts to reform the kashrut licensing market and end the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over it, something moderates in the community such as the Tzohar rabbinical organization have pursued.

And Hendel said that Blue and White would also work towards encouraging a more moderate approach to Jewish conversion, a highly explosive issue, through pushing for state recognition of conversions performed under Orthodox but non-state rabbinical courts.

The MK guaranteed that this party would push forward with these, and other, issues important to the religious-Zionist community.

He dismissed the reports that Gantz said in private that his party would concede on religion and state issues to get the haredi parties into government, saying that there were many issues where religious-Zionist interests could be advanced without opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties, and that the broader issues such as conversion would be tackled regardless.

“We can be an alternative home for those aren’t willing to vote for Betzalel Smotrich, Itamar Ben Gvir, Orit Struck and Moti Yogev and their [hardline] religious perceptive, and those who don’t like Netanyahu, and there are people like that in the world, and those who don’t support corruption,” he concluded. 

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