Bennett fights against voter defection in appeal to Anglo voters

In particular, he attacked the Likud, without directly mentioning Netanyahu’s name, as not being sufficiently right-wing.

NAFTALI BENNETT with Ayelet Shaked Wednesday night in the Knesset – back in religious Zionism’s political ship of fools.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
NAFTALI BENNETT with Ayelet Shaked Wednesday night in the Knesset – back in religious Zionism’s political ship of fools.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
The critical challenge facing the Yamina Party in the upcoming elections was laid clear by a pertinent question posed to Yamina leader and Defense Minister Naftali Bennett by a troubled voter who above all wants to preserve the governance of the Israeli right-wing.
“If I want to stop Benny Gantz becoming prime minister, wouldn’t it be better for me to vote for the Likud than Yamina?” asked Chaya, an attendee at a Yamina party event for Anglo-Israelis in Beit Shemesh Tuesday night.
Bennett described the query as “the most important question of the night” and took pains to argue that what is crucial is the overall size of the right-wing camp, not which is the biggest party.
He pledged that Yamina would back Netanyahu to form the next government, so that voting for Yamina meant a vote for the prime minister anyway, adding his mantra that Yamina will keep Netanyahu true to “right-wing values.”
Bennett highlighted this question because he knows why Yamina and all the iterations of the religious, right-wing political map over the last year have foundered so badly in the polls and remain stuck on seven or eight seats.
The consolidation of the majority of voters around the two biggest parties has meant that the smaller parties, such as Yamina, have lost significant numbers of the electorate to the broad, national parties.
So in the last two elections, right-wing, religious-Zionist voters, concerned that the right-wing will lose power, have voted Likud instead of for the religious-Zionist parties, which in the first election in April helped eject Bennett from the Knesset and in the second election put Yamina at just seven seats.
On Tuesday night, Bennett argued forcefully to reject this trend and, as he has done over the past two weeks, highlighted what he described as the Likud’s lack of right-wing consistency, as well as bemoaning the efforts of the Likud, Blue and White, and others to claw voters away from Yamina.
In particular, he attacked the Likud, without directly mentioning Netanyahu, as not being sufficiently right-wing.
“Fifteen years ago when a Likud government handed over parts of the Land of Israel to Arabs, we tried but couldn’t stop it, because we were helpless, weak and feeble,” lamented Bennett in reference to the disengagement from the Gaza Strip and the evacuation of the Gush Katif settlements in 2005.
“When we came in eight years ago, Israel was racing toward a Palestinian state, and we stopped it,” he boasted.
“No one even dared to talk about applying sovereignty over Judea and Samaria until I came out with my sovereignty plan.”
Bennett also trumpeted the changes senior Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked wrought as former justice minister in appointing more conservative judges to the courts and argued that the Likud had done nothing to change the makeup of the judicial system, with which the right-wing has fought bitterly over the settlements, asylum-seekers and other issues.
“If you pull us out, you get the old Likud that evicted people from Gush Katif [settlements in Gaza], you get the Likud that appointed all those [left-wing] judges, you get the Likud that released a thousand murderers,” Bennett said, in reference to Palestinian prisoner releases conducted by Netanyahu-led governments.
In the same vein, Bennett warned that without a “strong Yamina,” a Palestinian state would be established as stipulated under the Trump peace plan.
And, as he has done of late, Bennett completed his switch from espousing a broad, national vision as he did when his New Right party ran alone, to his return to a sectoral appeal for the loyalty of the religious-Zionist community.
“Everyone’s on us. Blue and White, the haredim; Liberman, day in and out, is attacking us; the Likud; everywhere I go, Bibi comes,” said Bennett.
“The religious-Zionist community was always beloved, but over the last five years everyone was attacking us. Why are there so many campaigns against us? Because we’re the battery, we’re the source of energy.”
The Yamina leader has repeated this message on several occasions over the past two weeks, including at a major campaign event and during a speech at the podium of the Knesset plenum, and the reason for his shift is clear.
Having united with the religious hard-liners of Bayit Yehudi and National Union, Yamina is unlikely to attract the liberal, right-wing voters he was wooing while running under the New Right banner.
At Tuesday’s event, he was instead appealing to the sense of identity, community, and religious values of the audience to halt any further erosion of the party’s base toward the Likud.