The Bennett threat – and why the pols are scared

Bennett is different. He doesn’t play by the rules that have characterized the ruthless political game. Regardless of the party, with only some variance of dress codes and colorful attachments, twittering and texting, the candidates are all the same.

December 31, 2012 22:32
3 minute read.
Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett 370. (photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem/The Jerusalem Post)


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Naftali Bennett is a product of Israeli society; articulate and smart, a Sayeret Matkal veteran, he’s an insider that understands what’s going on.

He is also a financial success. But that is not what makes him dangerous to the establishment. The threat he poses stems not so much from his ideology, but rather from the fact that that he actually has one, that he articulates what he believes and stands for.

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As refreshing as that sounds, it is a world away from most other politicians and so-called “leaders,” who pirouette on a shekel, or savage their opponents, depending on which way the winds of political success seem to be blowing. Bennett represents a kind of honesty and integrity that has not been seen in Israeli politics since Menachem Begin.

ISRAELI ELECTORAL campaigns and politics are all about personalities. Forget about ideology, forget about what they did or did not do, just “read my lips.”

Except that there are no lips. It’s all smiling faces and sloppy slogans about peace and security and social justice. Regardless of the party, with only some variance of dress codes and colorful attachments, twittering and texting, the candidates are all the same. They all want one thing and will do whatever they have to do to get it.

Bennett is different. He doesn’t play by the rules that have characterized the ruthless political game. His elbows are not sharp, and his tongue lacks the bitter taste of fury unleashed at anyone who differs. He is simply there. He is not in the race in pursuit of power for its own sake, or doped to the eyeballs with self-importance.

He is the spokesman for a genuine Zionist and Jewish ideological position.

The media doesn’t like such open and clear figures. More exciting is the flushed face, a toss of hair, the shrill scream of “justice,” with one hand in someone else’s pocket. The media trusts those they know cannot be trusted. That’s what they are used to. It’s all about political appetites, mythological feats, and ME! – my career, and what you can do for me.

POLITICS IS all promises and little or no delivery, and Israel is no exception.

Unlike other Western-style democracies, however, Israeli politics has made banality an achievement, passivity an honor and betrayal a profession.

Rabin and Peres brought us the Oslo Agreements, Sharon the disengagement and Barak the two-state delusion, and let’s not forget Olmert the feckless and corrupt, or Netanyahu – who still can’t decide what he really wants.

Along comes Bennett and says, “This is where I stand,” and he gets mauled by the media and his political opponents.

Instead of a dialogue on substantive issues, the campaign against Bennett sinks to the personal. It’s not about what he, or anyone else, actually thinks, but about demonizing the other. Forget about content, focus on form, on a PR label (“Center,” “Left,” “Right,” “ultra” etc – they are all the same).

If Bennett has a singular potential, it is to enliven our ability to think beyond the brainwashing ads, photo-ops and sound bites that have been substituted for intellectual seriousness. That is what makes him a threat.

PERHAPS BENNETT is naïve to think Israelis really do care about issues, that they can work their way through complexities and see things for what they really are. But he is not a politician like “The Politicians” that have sung us to sleep with lullabies of their virtues. He says little about himself, and much about the essential debate that needs to take place now. That is why his candidacy is important.

It’s not about him. It’s about us, the Jewish People in the Land of Israel.

The author is a PhD historian, writer and journalist.

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