Bennett Hurting Chances of Future Election Success with Irresponsible Comments
Naftali Bennett has, for the most part, been a successful leader early in his political career. He was able to unify the Bayit Yehudi party under his leadership and did well in both election campaigns he’s led. Bennett has been monumental in calling for reform to the conversion law and universal IDF service, uniting the religious Right in the fight for a number of buildings slated for destruction in Judea and Samaria, as well as backing legislation critical for Israel’s future such as the NGO Law. His campaign branding “We will not apologize” was second only to Netanyahu’s “Bibi or Herzog.”
While most of the laws the Bayit Yehudi party has pushed to get passed in the Knesset have flown under the radar, Bennett’s ability to present a cognizant version of Israel’s perspective to the international press has proven a gigantic success and important political asset. His statements regarding the Duma suspects and Jews’ rights to ascend the Temple Mount have not.
It’s one thing for a private citizen like myself to speak out against the conundrum that has resulted in the Shabbak’s handling of the Jewish terror suspects. It’s another for the leader of Israel’s “settler party” to do that. There was arguably no need for Bennett to support Netanyahu and Ya’alon’s claims that the Jewish terror suspects were being handled properly. Neither was there a need for him to come out in support of Bibi’s ban of right wing MK’s from the Temple Mount a year ago. Instead, he chose to take the “responsible” path and join the Left’s condemnations of people whose world view is not far removed from his own.
Why was there a need to make these statements? I “get” Bennett’s urge to act like a “responsible father” taking his “rebellious child” by the reigns. If he wanted to earn brownie points with the Left, he might have done that (but most likely, came up short there as well). The only problem is, it won’t help him gain support amongst an already-weary electorate that may well choose Feiglin’s party or another Ben-Ari list over the Bayit Yehudi in the next elections.
As far as the Left, they’ve already crucified Bennett as was evident at the Ha’aretz press conference a little over a year ago when he wasn’t afforded much of an opportunity to speak while being branded a “racist” and “Nazi.” The Left is unrelenting in its fight against Israel. Where we’re willing to make concessions, they’re not. So why try appealing to them in the first place?
Unless these comments were triggered by pressure from Netanyahu to take control of his electorate “or else,” (much like Obama controls Netanyahu, Bibi exerts the same kind of pressure on the Right) there is no excuse for Bennett’s folly.
As bad as his idea to connect Bayit Yehudi’s political fortunes with those of Yair Lapid in the last go-around may have been, I have a feeling the ineptitude and disconnect from a large potion of the religious Right Bennett demonstrated with his comments may cause some of his electorate to reconsider supporting him in future elections. Undoubtedly, he has done much more good than bad. The problem is the “bad” is more noticeable.