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November 30, 2015 / 18 Kislev, 5776
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Meet Religious Zionism’s New Hope

Naftali Bennett

Naftali Bennett
Photo Credit: Moshe Shai/Flash90

NB: Either we do a massive transformation and turn into a leading Jewish-Zionist party or we simply become extinct and die. In its heyday the party (originally Mafdal) had 12 seats, then 7 and now 3, while in the polls – before this big move – the party didn’t even make it past the minimum threshold. In order to survive we need to have a revolution and the revolution is already happening in the field.

We also need to change the way we view ourselves and our role in society. What I mean by this is that we need to stop seeing ourselves as just the “religious ones.” For example, in the army I was a company commander in the Special Forces and I’m currently a major in the reserves in the sayeret matkal but I never considered myself the “religious guy.” Or when I created a company which eventually had 140 employees, I never saw myself as the “religious guy.” I was the CEO, and that was my role.

In politics however we’re always allowing ourselves to be confined to this tiny little drawer. As a result the most senior minister we’re allotted is something like the Minister of Hasbara or Minister of Science. It’s ridiculous! When we talk about navigating this country, especially in light of the values we believe in, we’re simply not there to navigate. So rather than being the ones that lead the country we’re the ones that take care of the religious issues. We need to stop dealing only with the “religious stuff” and start being partners in leading the country.

YM: If I understand correctly, you essentially want to change The Jewish Home from a party that historically tries to “influence” to a party that will start “leading”?

NB: It’s even more than that. Since it’s called The Jewish Home let’s make it a real Jewish home which will include all Jews – religious, traditional and secular. In doing so we’ll turn it from a small and narrow religious home to a broad Jewish-Zionist home. That’s the overall goal.

YM: As you know the pro-Israel Zionist camp, comprised of religious, traditional and secular Israelis, is currently spread across the political map. Therefore do you really believe this powerful group, arguably the largest one in Israel, can be brought under one political umbrella for the good of the country and if so, how?

NB: The first thing that needs to be done is we need to win the primaries that are taking place in a few months and the only way this will happen is if we have tens of thousands of people registering for The Jewish Home. In this light I invite everyone to register as a member of The Jewish Home in order to vote for my group and to help us in fulfilling the vision. To make it easy we set up the website www.israelim.org.il so that people can register on-line. Please keep in mind that if you don’t register before September 8th you can’t vote.

Secondly, after we win the primaries we’ll try to invite people back. Right now there are over ten mandates in the Likud that were brought by religious Zionists. We’ll say to them “what are you doing in the Likud?” We brought the Likud to power, then Ehud Barak and the government “froze us” [the building freeze] for ten months. They simply did this as if we don’t exist. Then Netanyahu declared Ehud Barak’s vision of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria, a vision that goes against everything we believe in. Then when there was a bill to change the structure of the Supreme Court, again it was the Likud who brought it down. Likewise when there was a different bill to stop European funding of anti-Israel NGOs again it was the Likud who pulled back.

So at every junction we’re not counted and if we want to be counted we have to be strong. Look at Shas. Although we differ since they mainly take care of one sector while we want to take care of Am Yisrael, to their credit they have twelve mandates and they are one of the powerful parties in Israel. But since we’re dispersed we’re powerless. That’s the big difference.

About the Author: Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. He can be contacted via http://yoelmeltzer.com.

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