Naftali Bennett: Israel's best choice for next leader - opinion

Sa’ar is certainly on a roll, but despite his positive image and enthusiasm, I believe that Bennett is by far the more suitable candidate to lead this country.

‘NAFTALI BENNETT (in the Knesset in August) has not only passion, but a plan.’ (photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)
‘NAFTALI BENNETT (in the Knesset in August) has not only passion, but a plan.’
(photo credit: OREN BEN HAKOON/POOL)
Once there was a man hopelessly lost in a forest. Try as he might, he could not find the way out. He walked endlessly, searching for an exit, but the trees all blended together and he became more and more distraught, fearing he might never return to civilization. And then, in the distance, he spotted another man. He excitedly ran toward him and shouted, “Help, friend! Can you show me the way out of here, please?!”
The other man grasped his hand. “I’m sorry,” he said, “but I, too, have been wandering about for hours; I don’t know the way out, either. But – I do know what is not the way. So let us eliminate the false paths one by one, until we eventually come upon the way out of this seemingly endless maze.”
This is precisely the situation in which Israel finds itself today. We have been walking, zombie-like, in circles since April 2019, enduring three very costly elections, all of which ended in stalemate. And now we face a fourth round of voting, with absolutely no assurance that we will make any more progress than before.
Barring an unexpected verdict in the prime minister’s court cases, the Likud seems poised to emerge once again as the leading party, and if the haredi parties maintain their loyal support of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, it will be an almost impossible task to break the logjam and create a ruling coalition.
THE ONLY alternative that remains is for us to gather up our courage and refuse to walk down the same old hopeless road, but, rather, choose a new path with new blood and new energy.
Two candidates offer us that new road – Gideon Sa’ar and Naftali Bennett. Both are accomplished, relatively young (Bennett is 48, Sa’ar 54) charismatic leaders. Both have their roots in the Likud, having served there as MKs. Both have had a long association with Netanyahu – Bennett was his chief of staff, while Sa’ar was Bibi’s cabinet secretary and ran against him for party leader in 2019 (and was handily defeated). Both are decidedly right-wing, opposed to a Palestinian state and tough on terrorism, and each is anxious to show the country what he can do.
Sa’ar has made a big splash in the last two weeks. His New Hope (or is it “hype?”) Party has jumped in the polls, largely by “collecting” renegade members of the Likud – Ze’ev Elkin the most prominent among them – and drafting them to his party.
Sa’ar is certainly on a roll, but despite his positive image and enthusiasm, I believe that Bennett is by far the more suitable candidate to lead this country. I say this for three reasons.
First, Bennett’s credentials are impeccable. He has excelled in every field, both in and out of politics.
He has an inspiring military record, having served in the General Staff Reconnaissance Unit and the Maglan commando unit as a company commander, risking his life in dangerous missions on numerous occasions.
He had a brilliant career in business and is one of the bright stars of the Start-Up Nation.
He has served the country in areas that impacted positively on virtually every citizen of Israel, heading the Economy, Religious Services, Jerusalem, Diaspora Affairs, Education and Defense ministries.
Second, Bennett has not only passion but a plan. Long before the government reacted, he mapped a way out of the corona crisis, weaving selective lockdowns, useful isolation and technological follow-through into a cohesive and effective response to the pandemic.
He is an original thinker, a doer as much as a theorist. He is a self-starter, someone who truly sees the big picture, and has a comprehensive vision for peace and prosperity in the Israel of the future.
Third, he is willing to consider any combination of forces that can extricate us from our present predicament.
Sa’ar has painted himself in a corner, declaring publicly that “anyone who sees Bibi’s Likud as part of a coalition should not vote for me.” That means that either Sa’ar will renege on his pledge – making him just another plastic politician – or he will be unable to mold together a viable majority.
While Bennett certainly has solid principles, he has not ruled out working with any one party and will thus have a far better chance of keeping us from yet a fifth election.
As a member of the Modern Orthodox community, Bennett holds the middle ground and has good rapport with a wide spectrum of the extended population, from secular to haredi.
I MARVEL at anyone who actually wants to be prime minister of this country, for the fates have not been kind, to say the least, to those who have occupied the nation’s top tier.
Golda Meir, for all her greatness, resigned in the wake of the Yom Kippur War and its horrendous losses. Menachem Begin’s illustrious career ended in depression over the mounting death toll in the First Lebanon War, and he became incommunicado and a recluse until the day he died. Yitzhak Rabin, of course, was assassinated. Ariel Sharon spent the last eight years of his life in a coma, and was plagued by his controversial decision to withdraw from Gaza. He was succeeded as prime minster by Ehud Olmert, who became the only prime minister to serve time in jail.
And now Netanyahu, the longest-serving head of state, with innumerable achievements to his credit, faces an uncertain future that may also end in disgrace.
This seems to be the lot of leaders of Israel, dating back to biblical times. Sarah dies of shock following the near sacrifice of her son, Isaac. Rebekah dies alone, with no one at her funeral. Rachel dies young, in childbirth, and Jacob sums up his days to Pharaoh as “few and bad.” Moses is denied his most fervent wish, to enter Israel, and is buried in an unmarked grave. King David, for his part, is told by God that he will die without being allowed to build the Temple, his greatest desire, and even his son Solomon is informed that the united kingdom he ruled will be taken away from his family soon after his death.
With all this foreboding history, it takes courage to step up and assume leadership – courage and self-sacrifice of the highest order.
Naftali Bennett, I believe, has the qualities that we sorely need to enter a new era of glory. The third election was no charm; we pray the coming one does us no harm.
May God help you, Naftali.
The writer is director of the Jewish Outreach Center of Ra’anana.
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