Naftali Bennett Disconnected from Religious-Zionist Electorate
Naftali Bennett earned a whopping 12 mandates in the last Knesset elections. This didn’t surprise anyone. He led a populist campaign based on the Israeli version of “You’re my bro.” He talked about unity, unity and more unity as if unity was everything and I gotta hand it to him: unity isn’t the “most important” think for Israel–it’s the only thing that really matters. But Bennett and his Jewish Home party have proven far from equal to the task of bringing unity to Israel.
The first big test was forming the coalition government. Instead of aligning himself with the Charedi parties, Bennett stuck to Yair Lapid’s “Yesh Atid.” I supported this move, but it has proven a big mistake. Lapid has been the biggest disappointment of the new government, subjugating Israelis to merciless new taxes on seemingly benign items such as fruits, vegetables, cigarettes, and liquor, and leading a nasty smear campaign against religious Jews that Papa Lapid would have been proud of. Bennett has recently made efforts to distance himself from Lapid, but that’s just too little too late.
I need to say that I like what Bennett has done by remaining in the coalition despite Bibi’s decision to negotiate with the “Palestinians” at a time when there’s absolutely nothing to negotiate. This is a very wise move because the second (G-d forbid) there’s a deal on the table, he will pull out of the government and, unless The Jewish Home can be replaced by Labor (and this is highly, highly unlikely), new elections will be called before any peace deal can even be put up for a national referendum.
To his detriment, the way Bennett handled the WOW hysteria was a complete fiasco. While he was forced to give in to the majority consensus and provide a small cornered off area for the crazies to perform their rituals (I can’t call it “praying”), he went on to give his typical populist speech acknowledging WOW as a legitimate organization.
I can’t think of another religious Zionist “leader” in modern history who would have done that. That’s called “lacking determination” and simply cannot go unnoticed. A “leader” who caves in to a small group of hysterical old ladies can’t be expected to hold his own when it comes to maintaining Israel’s integrity in Judea and Samaria (anyone thinking of reclaiming Gush Katif and if not, why not?)
To summarize, a few Likud and Jewish Home MK’s are worthy of my vote. None of the current party leaders are close to having what it takes to make a positive impact on the country. While I realize that we have another three years left to go before a final grade can truly be handed out, Naftali Bennett has so far come up short in the leadership test.