It is no accident that the contentious subject of conscientious objection was laid at Bennett’s doorstep from the very start. This issue digs deep into one of the most basic dilemmas in the national religious ideology: the relationship between faith and state. The conscientious objection issue is the civil language that frames the faith-based question that asks: who is king, God or the state? Bennett’s zigzag and the fact that his entire roster stood behind him on this issue placed the amazing achievement of the reunification of religious Zionism on a very shaky ideological foundation. It also negated its ability to herald the message that it pretends to carry. Jewish Home voters can be absolutely sure that their party will not expel Jews from their homes – on Shabbat!
Before the elections, the Jewish Home candidates have managed to remain silent and to close ranks in the face of theoretical challenges. They all stand firmly behind their ascending leader who avoids ideological statements. But when faced with reality’s challenges, the arguments and divisions will begin, highlighting the fact that the party is narrow-based and driving away voters who are not from their natural base. The Jewish Home Party will then return to its natural size.
What Will Happen In Next Week’s Elections?
With great talent, and partly due to its political assault on Bennett and its decisive stand against conscientious objection, the Likud has distanced the religious Zionist public that had been joining the party over the last number of years.
The votes that should have been coming in from Yisrael Beiteinu will disperse in every direction when their party leader is forced to step down. The person most likely to benefit from this is – once again – Naftali Bennett. Other parties, including Likud, will benefit from these defections as well.
It is reasonable to assume that despite all the setbacks, the Likud will form the next government. This is not a sure thing, though. It is fluid enough for some other factor (like criminal charges against a senior minister) to enter the picture at the 11th hour to redirect more mandates away from the Likud. If the Likud wins less than 30 seats and Labor tops 20, Deri (the Shas head who certainly prefers Yachimovich) will abstain from endorsing Netanyahu for prime minister. In that scenario, Deri’s move would enable President Peres to ask Yachimovich to form a government – and she could certainly succeed by cobbling together a “social” platform with Shas.
One way or another, the Jewish Home will win at least 15 mandates. If Netanyahu includes Bennett in his government, the latter will be forced to go a very long distance with Netanyahu in the face of negotiations and political surrenders. After all, Netanyahu could always exchange him for Yachimovich, Livni or Lapid – or all of them. The Jewish Home will never have a political option other than Likud. It is also very likely that Bennett will never make it into the coalition at all.
There is no choice for those loyal to the Land of Israel but to remember that the contest is not between Likud or Labor, or Likud or NRP. The real name of the game is leadership of the national ruling party, namely leadership of the state of Israel.
The generation of Yamit (over 30 years ago) did not understand this crucial point and did not draw the obvious conclusion that a faith-based alternative must be established. Instead, it passed this issue on to the next generation: the generation of the expulsion from Gush Katif. It seems that the Disengagement generation also did not understand, and despite the great progress that Manhigut Yehudit has made in the Likud, religious Zionists are now returning to narrow-based politics. If this trend continues, our children will also find themselves negotiating between a leftist government that wants to expel them and a rightist government that expels without asking.
The solution is not to jump off the train. The solution is to progress slowly but surely to the steering wheel. Those who understand this do not leave the Likud and consider the true market value of the various parties and not the current political fads. We should not make light of the parties being traded under their value, but we must also not become overenthusiastic when a party leaps way above its true value.