Analysis: A week to forget for religious Zionists

Divisions in the religious-Zionist camp, mistakes and poor leadership are all coming up in the blame game.

Naftali Bennett Keda outpost 370 (photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
Naftali Bennett Keda outpost 370
(photo credit: TOVAH LAZAROFF)
When right-wing religious-Zionist Jews in Israel began Shabbat last week, they were blissfully unaware of how much would go wrong for them in the week ahead.
They had no idea until Saturday night, but an hour after the day of rest started, US Secretary of State John Kerry announced that the diplomatic talks between Israel and the Palestinians that they had been dreading would soon begin.
Since then, politicians on the Right have been sparring about how to react to the reignited diplomatic process.
They bickered back and forth at a meeting of the Knesset’s Land of Israel Caucus in a scene reminiscent of the fights on the Right ahead of the 2005 Gaza Strip withdrawal.
Some, like coalition chairman Yariv Levin (Likud Beytenu), who co-chairs the caucus, have been saying that there is nothing wrong with talking to the Palestinians as long as Israel does not give anything up. Others, such as Likud MK Moshe Feiglin, have said the very fact that Israel is talking to the Palestinian leadership is a national tragedy.
Some, like Bayit Yehudi MK Orit Struck, called for boycotting key votes if construction does not resume in Judea and Samaria. Others, like Deputy Minister Ophir Akunis (Likud Beytenu), have warned against taking such action against a Likud-led government.
No right-wing minister, deputy minister or MK has taken up the fight of the family members of the victims of the 82 terrorists who are due to be released in stages as part of the nascent diplomatic process.
Politicians who vowed to fight for the families in the past are suddenly silent.
Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett pronounced himself satisfied with the fact that talks with the Palestinians will not have preconditions, that no Israeli-Arab terrorists will be released and that a referendum bill that already exists will be somewhat strengthened.
He has decided to save the protests he could be leading for another time.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has achieved the “industrial quiet” his aides have always said he needed for any serious steps with the Palestinians. He actually had that quiet last term, too, but it did not lead to talks then due to mistakes made by other parties in the peace process.
A Dialog poll this week found a majority for a peace deal brokered by Netanyahu as long as no specifics about the deal are included in the poll question.
The poll indicates that the public trusts its prime minister on the most fateful of issues.
Now that the diplomatic process is beginning, every party in the coalition can celebrate an achievement ahead of the Knesset’s summer recess.
Hatnua has its peace process, Yesh Atid is drafting haredim, Yisrael Beytenu is advancing electoral reform, and the Likud has a stabilizing security situation and better relations with Washington. Only Bayit Yehudi has nothing to boast.
The one issue that Bayit Yehudi was going to celebrate all summer was the election of a Zionist chief rabbi. Had David Stav or Shmuel Eliyahu gotten elected, it would have restored pride in religious Zionists that had waned during the two decades the haredim controlled the rabbinate.
Now the crocheted kippot in the Knesset are all pointing fingers at each other about who is to blame for the failure. Divisions in the religious-Zionist camp, mistakes and poor leadership are all coming up in the blame game.
Losing the elections for both chief rabbi posts would have been devastating at any time. Coming at the conclusion to a week to forget for right-wing religious Zionists made it that much harder.