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Israel’s Bold New Voice

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An exciting newcomer has arrived in the turbulent arena of Israeli politics. In her fiery speech during the recent countdown ceremony in the Revava settlement that marked the end of the ten-month moratorium on construction in Judea and Samaria, Tzipi Hotovely seized the moment. She eloquently encouraged the synthesis, so long deferred, between Judaism and Zionism. Even in her first term in the Knesset, at the age of 31 and its youngest member, her future impact already seems assured.

Passionately and articulately, Hotovely insisted that “the only government to rule this land is the government of Israel.” The Likud, she noted, “was not established to build a Palestinian state.” It must not support “any diplomatic process that destroys the Zionist enterprise in Judea and Samaria.”

Not since the days of Geula Cohen has such a forceful female voice – perhaps any voice – been heard in the Knesset asserting that the biblical homeland still belongs to the Jewish people within the state of Israel.

Who is Tzipi Hotovely and what has propelled her rapid political ascent? The daughter of immigrants from Georgia (Russia), she grew up in Rechovot, studied in the Ulpanit Bnei Akiva high school in Tel Aviv, received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in law at Bar-Ilan University, and became a lawyer in 2003 before entering a Ph.D. program at Tel Aviv University.

The Gaza disengagement, which she described as “a disaster, a Jewish-Israeli anti-democratic move against its own voters,” marked her political awakening. A year later she made her debut as the only religious right-winger on the popular political debate program “Moetzet HaHamim” (Council of Sages) and became a contributing columnist for Ma’ariv. One impressed television viewer was Benjamin Netanyahu, who invited her to join the Likud.

Describing her election to the Knesset a year ago as “hashgacha pratit” (divine providence), Hotovely has called for “a politics of values and ideology.” Her bedrock principle is: “Bring ideas and views; don’t play the game, don’t compromise.” In a political culture dominated for more than sixty years by secular men eager to compromise Israel’s biblical legacy, her passionate religious Zionism has the potential to transform Israeli politics.

Interviewed by The Jewish Press in July 2009, Hotovely stated bluntly: “Oslo is not an issue anymore because everyone knows the [peace] process failed and everyone is looking for a new way.” She expressed her belief that Netanyahu “will bring that new approach” even though, as interviewer Sara Lehmann pointed out, he had relinquished nearly all of Hebron to the Palestinian Authority during his first term as prime minister.

Any new approach seems far likelier to come from Hotovely than from Netanyahu, squeezed as he is by the United States to make ever more concessions to the Palestinians and likely, sooner or later, to oblige. In recent months, she has begun to circulate her ideas about the settlements, which currently agitate everyone from President Obama to President Ahmadinejad – and, not incidentally, about the future of the Jewish state.

“What is Zionism all about?” she asked rhetorically in her Jewish Press interview. Her answer: “Zionism is really about going back to Zion, going back to Jerusalem, going back to all those biblical places. We need to start talking about the peace process without removing people from the settlements.”

But how, exactly, can that be done? Early last month, Hotovely presented to the Likud Central Committee her proposal to annex Judea and Samaria and give full Israeli citizenship to all its Arab residents. The idea of “one state for two peoples” came from Uri Elitzur, formerly Netanyahu¹s bureau chief and now deputy editor of Makor Rishon, who introduced it last year at a conference organized by Hotovely.

To date, her one-state solution has received little, and at best tepid, support. But it rests on the reality that since Oslo – indeed, since the Peel Commission partition plan of 1937 – Palestinians have not accepted any partition offer short of Israeli self-dissolution. Nor can Israel muster its superior military power to have its way because, she says, “the world won’t accept inevitable pictures of dead children.” Therefore, Israel should begin to annex Judea and Samaria in stages, starting with the large settlement blocs and the Jordan Valley, where few Palestinians live and where Israel requires a security barrier.

About the Author: Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of “Jewish State/Pariah Nation: Israel and the Dilemmas of Legitimacy,” to be published next month by Quid Pro Books.

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