Naftali Bennett, head of the Bayit Yehudi party, is silhouetted as he talks to students at a pre-army training course as he campaigns in the Shapira Center near the southern city of Ashkelon.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Like most Bayit Yehudi supporters and indeed like much of the Israeli population, I have mixed feelings regarding yesterday’s election results. Given the prospect of a left-wing, anti-traditional government, I could only be relieved by Benjamin Netanyahu’s decisive victory. But the significant reduction of a party that only months ago polled as many as 17 Knesset seats is disappointing, not only because of the loss to the Knesset of some of the very talented and dedicated individuals we elected two months ago, but also because of the circumstances under which this turn-around took place.
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I am aware that my own disappointment pales in comparison to that of the vast majority of my colleagues, who deluded themselves into thinking that Isaac Herzog and Tzipi Livni might actually have led the 20th government, despite the fact that the polls never really supported that premise, and especially not when looking at the polls regarding a suitable prime minister, in which Netanyahu was always 20 percent ahead of Herzog. I can fully empathize with their bitter disappointment, because I know precisely how I’d feel seeing a left-wing government formed. I’m not a sports fan, but I know those who are can become unbelievably depressed when their team loses, so I guess beyond the practical ramifications of losing, there’s also a psychological side that can’t be discounted.
In the last few days before the election, when polls showed Likud trailing Labor, a large percentage of Bennett’s supporters related seriously to the threat of a Labor government, threatened by Netanyahu’s campaign pleas and bolstered by the wishful media, and gave their support to Netanyahu.
As Bayit Yehudi’s Ayelet Shaked so aptly put it, “When crisis strikes, it is always the national religious Zionist camp that carries the stretcher for the injured party.”
The last Shabbat before the elections, Bennett visited the city of Rehovot where I reside, and like many others, I spoke to him one on one. In response to my comment that he has the qualities to lead the country one day, he responded as he has to even foreign journalists who questioned him on his ambitions to lead the country. He said in the simplest fashion: I only want to serve my country in the best capacity that I am able.
Any party leader is bound to have an ample ego, which needs to be constantly tamed and controlled. But I believe Naftali Bennett.
I don’t know which portfolio Bennett will request in this government, and with a diminished number of mandates, he might not have first pick – though undoubtedly Prime Minister Netanyahu owes him a great debt. But I know which portfolio Bennett personally is best suited and that is the Foreign Ministry.
Bennett is famous for his ability to stand tall and unflinching in the face of belligerent verbal attack and turn the conversation/ interview into one he controls. Whether it be Al Jazeera, CNN or Yonit Levy, Bennett speaks with confidence, clarity and simplicity.
Even in English he demands a respect which is unmatched by any other Israeli politician I’ve seen, including Netanyahu. He is unapologetic, yet surprisingly non-aggressive.
When Bennett speaks to the world, he makes us all feel proud as Jews and as Israelis.
After all, “You cannot be an occupier in your own land.” Without any trace of fanaticism, he has a vision of the Jews’ journey in a religious sense, not just a pragmatic one. He speaks the language of Judea and Samaria. It is a language that the prime minister himself cannot comfortably speak. Unlike American presidents, who regularly invoke God’s name, our own political leaders may recall history but always stop short of mentioning God. An important byproduct of hearing Bennett’s words can be the strengthening of our own resolve. We cannot convince the world of our righteousness until we truly believe it ourselves.
Recently a non-profit Israel advocacy organization called JerusalemU published a shocking documentary which reveals the rise of anti-Israel activity and anti-Semitic rhetoric on American university campuses.
The video shows a very well-organized and funded wide-scale effort to disseminate a completely distorted and fabricated depiction of a “Zionist regime” which commits genocide against an innocent and victimized Palestinian people.
As one of the interviewees explained, when you repeat a lie enough times, its familiarity tricks the brain into believing it is true. The Arabs and anti-Zionists have become remarkably adept at these tactics.
They do not hesitate to scream and shout their lies.
This is what today’s American youth are being exposed to. Many students come to university with very little knowledge of Israel, since they put most of their focus on internal affairs and studying for their SAT exams prior to university. So the first introduction to the subject of Israel is this evil propaganda. While the US government today is largely pro-Israel, this cannot be assumed in the next generation, if this enterprise is successful.
And the way to combat this dangerous phenomenon is definitely not through placation, capitulation and weakness. All the deep concern for innocent Palestinians is utterly wasted in the face of these tactics.
And all our caring is quite useless when their leaders care nothing for them. The world might prefer the victimized Jew of the Holocaust to the image of a confident, independent Israeli, but that will not save us from the onslaught of those who seek our destruction. We must speak in a loud, clear and confident voice – the voice of Naftali Bennett.The author, a resident of Rehovot, is a member of the Bayit Yehudi Party.
The author posits that commentators should take into account Israeli suffering during the recent Gaza war and how that impacts politics. (Reuters)