Blue and White 'attack ad' causes consternation among religious-Zionists

Bennett: Find an identity not based on hatred, just not Bibi

Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and MK Yair Lapid (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/MAARIV)
Blue and White leader Benny Gantz and MK Yair Lapid
A campaign advertisement by the Blue and White Party has generated apparent consternation among Yamina Party leaders for besmirching the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community.
The ad, which was published in several of the widely read, free Shabbat magazines and pamphlets that are distributed at synagogues around the country, featured an Israeli flag flying proudly but bearing yellow stains and smudges on half of it.
Above the flag was the statement: “There’s so much mustard that it already has no taste,” and below it the slogan: “This is what we’re here for” and a picture of the Blue and White ballot slip.
The ad was a not-too-subtle attack against the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community, commonly known as the Hardal community, a portmanteau of the Hebrew words for ultra-Orthodox and nationalist.
In Hebrew, the word for mustard is also hardal, hence the yellow stains on the flag.
The Hardal community is characterized by its stringent outlook on Jewish law and its strongly conservative attitude to social issues and matters of religion and state, while preserving its Zionist ideology.
Although it is thought to constitute only approximately 15 to 20% of the religious-Zionist community, the conservative sector has outsized influence due to greater political activism and the willingness of its rabbis to assert their authority.
Education Minister Rafi Peretz, leader of the Bayit Yehudi Party, and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich, leader of the National Union Party – two constituent parts of Yamina – are both from the conservative wing of the religious-Zionist community.
The conservatives are often accused by political opponents, such as Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman – and at times, Yamina leader Defense Minister Naftali Bennett – of being extremists who have radicalized the religious-Zionist political parties and of not representing the community’s mainstream.
Blue and White believes it can woo moderate religious-Zionist voters, who do not share the conservatives’ more hard-line outlook on religion and state and on social concerns, as potential swing voters who could abandon the Right in the upcoming election.
Bennett fulminated for many years against the influence of the conservatives and their rabbis until he left, largely due to their influence, to set up his New Right Party. But he defended them in a Facebook post over the weekend in the face of Blue and White’s attack, saying he was “proud to be a Hardal.”
“Blue and White, look for your votes elsewhere,” Bennett wrote. “Sometimes you’re for a secular unity government, sometimes you’re ‘not Right or Left’ and today you are ‘giving warning about the hardalnikim.'
“The mustard stain on the flag took you a few minutes to do on Photoshop, but to remove this stain, this shame, will take years. When you find an identity not based on hatred (just no Bibi) give us a call.”
The far-right Otzma Yehudit Party filed a petition to the High Court of Justice against Blue and White for incitement, describing the ad as having “the smell of antisemitism about it.”
Blue and White MK Elazar Stern, a leading figure in the party’s campaign to attract moderate religious-Zionist voters, accused Bennett of hypocrisy by pointing to his own attacks against the religious-Zionist conservatives when New Right ran as a separate party in the April 2019 election.
“Bayit Yehudi is a more ‘hardal’ party," Bennett said during a live Facebook session. "Bezalel Smotrich and Rabbi Rafi Peretz, who is a student of the [hard-line] Har Hamor yeshiva, and [Bayit Yehudi MK] Moti Yogev represent the ‘hardal’ path. We [New Right] connect the mainstream of the religious-Zionist community, religious and secular people.” “Whoever is more hardal should vote for Bayit Yehudi,” he added.
Stern responded on Twitter: “Naftali, you can’t fool us. We are truly the force for a Judaism that connects [people] and not one that is hardal-ifying people.”