Religious Blue and White MKs campaign to attract religious-Zionist voters

"Bayit Yehudi is the Neturei Karta of the religious-Zionist community," said Blue and White MK Elazar Stern.

MK Elazar Stern (photo credit: COURTESY/OFFICE OF MK ELAZAR STERN)
MK Elazar Stern
The Blue and White party has initiated a campaign targeting voters from the religious-Zionist community, and believes significant numbers could switch their political allegiance from their traditional home in the right-wing bloc.
Speaking to The Jerusalem Post, Blue and White MK Elazar Stern strongly criticized the Yamina list for the radicalism of some its members, and accused it of straying from the moderate path of the religious-Zionist movement.
The campaign will be led by the several religious-Zionist MKs in Blue and White such as Chili Tropper, Stern and others, and focus on asserting its right-wing credentials regarding settlements and the Palestinians, as well its commitment to moderating the state’s position on religious issues such as conversion, kashrut and Shabbat.
In the September election, it is estimated that 10% of the religious-Zionist community, which numbers some 650,000 Israeli citizens, voted for Blue and White, close to two Knesset seats.
Blue and White is hoping that the community, which has been known for its devotion to the state and its institutions, will finally be put off by the attacks of Likud and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu against the legal system and other institutions, as well as what it describes as the extremism of some of the religious-Zionist political parties.
Stern accused the Bayit Yehudi party of being “the Neturei Karta of the religious-Zionist world,” in reference to the extremist ultra-Orthodox sect, and said that he and other Blue and White MKs like Tropper represent the religious-Zionist community more than politicians such as National Union leader and Transportation Minister Bezalel Smotrich and candidate Orit Struck.
“They have adopted the most severe stringencies which the religious-Zionist community never had regarding conversion, marriage, Shabbat and everything related to the Chief Rabbinate, and State of Israel is therefore losing its Jewish character,” said Stern.
“They want people to convert in the most severe manner, so we have intermarriage as a consequence, they want to force Shabbat on people so we see new public transportation initiatives on Shabbat, insist on stringencies for marriage and divorce so we see less and less people going to the rabbinate to marry, including from the religious-Zionist community.”
Stern said that the MKs involved in the campaign would be participating in parlor meetings and campaign events in communities and cities with large religious-Zionist communities, publishing articles in the highly popular Shabbat pamphlets which are a distributed in synagogues, as well as engaging in an online campaign.
Asked why he believes religious-Zionist voters will change sides in the upcoming election given that Likud and Netanyahu were already attacking state institutions before the September election, when only 10% of the community voted Blue and White, Stern said that a combination of events were now leading to a point of departure.
“Everything has a boiling point. Even when it was 90 degrees celsius they didn’t boil, but there is a point when this happens, and now there is a combination of factors,” he said, citing infighting in the religious-Zionist political parties and a promise swiftly retracted by New Right leader Naftali Bennett to run as a liberal party.
The new campaign has been bolstered by the fact that the left-wing parties Meretz and Labor have united, meaning they will safely cross the electoral threshold, and Blue and White can now focus on convincing right-wing voters to switch over and give Blue and White the additional seats it needs to obtain a majority after the last two electoral stalemates.
Indeed, moderate religious-Zionist voters are likely one of the only segments of the population that could change the political bloc for which it votes in the coming election, especially given the right-wing messages Blue and White has been issuing on matters such as settlements, security and the Palestinians.
Party leader Benny Gantz’s pledge on Tuesday to annex the Jordan Valley is just one example of its rightward turn in recent weeks.
Senior Yamina leader Ayelet Shaked said in response to the launch of the campaign that “Blue and White thinks that the religious-Zionist community will serve a left-wing, Arab government which they want to form.”
She continued, “This is a party which is diplomatically left-wing, economically left-wing, anti-religious, (look at their last campaign when they promised to form a secular government). Yesh Atid fought against all the great works of the religious-Zionist community, against national service, against religious start-up communities, against the state-religious education system, against the settlements division and against religious-Zionist yeshivas.”