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April 25, 2014 / 25 Nisan, 5774
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Drama in the ‘Jewish Home’ Party

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

In less than three months time the Jewish Home Party, formerly known as the National Religious Party (NRP), will be holding its first ever internal primaries. Although for most political parties the holding of primaries is not a newsworthy event, in the case of the Jewish Home Party this is quite a story.

Although for many years after its inception the NRP was consistently a ten to fifteen member party, ever since the end of the 9th Knesset in 1981 the strength of the party has been drastically reduced. With the brief exception of the 14th Knesset of 1996 when the party managed to climb back over the ten member threshold, for years the party hovered between four to six members before finally crashing down to its current level of three.

Some of the reason for the loss of power was due to the endless splintering in the national camp throughout the years as internal disputes regarding direction and vision frequently led to the creation of new parties. Similarly, for some on the left the party was seen as focusing too much on communities in Judea-Samaria-Gaza while to some on the right the party was seen as being too wishy-washy and unwilling to take a forceful stand. As a result the party witnessed an erosion of power as voters from both sides slowly drifted away.

Even the recruitment ten years ago of Effie Eitam and all the excitement that his name and presence generated couldn’t reverse the trend. Similarly, the various mergers or attempted mergers in recent years with the National Union have failed to stop the bleeding.

The result of this process is that some members of the national camp have turned to the Likud, some to the National Union and yet others to Lieberman’s Yisrael Beiteinu.

Thus there exists today the absurd situation where on the one hand the national religious community excels and even leads in some key areas of the country – the military and hi-tech to name just a few – while in the political realm their power is diffused and hence their collective influence is nearly non-existent.

Only with both an understanding of this background and with the knowledge that unless there is a radical change the Jewish Home Party might simply disappear from the political map in the coming years, can one truly appreciate the events surrounding the upcoming party elections.

For starters, while two of the candidates for the party leadership, Zevulun Orlev and Daniel Hershkowitz, are rightly or wrongly associated with the old guard that has made the party nearly irrelevant, the third candidate, 40-year-old Naftali Bennett, is creating much excitement and anticipation. The former chief of staff of Netanyahu prior to the 2009 elections, Bennett is trying to move the party away from its traditional role of being a small sector-related party that is usually satisfied with only trying to influence the larger ruling parties and instead transform it into a significantly broader and larger party that is finally involved in leading.

Moreover, Bennett’s approach and the high hopes that are being placed on him has convinced a wide range of candidates – such as Ayelet Shaked, the secular co-founder of the MyIsrael national movement, Moti Yogev, the former Secretary General of Bnei Akiva and Dr Yehuda David, the Israeli physician who fought for the truth in the Mohammed al-Dura story – to enter the elections for the party list which are being held one week after the elections for the party leader.

Nevertheless, while Bennett’s race for the leadership and his plan to open up the party to the wider national camp in order to include traditional and secular members side by side with religious ones has earned him the support of many, including perhaps most importantly that of current Jewish Home Party member of Knesset Uri Orbach, his two opponents are still confident that they can defeat their relatively young rival.

Thus as the race to sign up members to the party comes to a close on September 9, the three candidates for the party leadership are preparing for the final push to the November 6 elections. The results of that day will probably mean the continued irrelevance of a once proud party or a breath of fresh air and hope for a frustrated and splintered national camp.

The Lessons of the Eisner Affair

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

Although watching a young Danish tourist getting whacked in the face by an M16 rifle is certainly not a pleasant site and tends to make one cringe, viewing the slightly extended video of the incident simply made my blood boil. For rather than being engaged in the normal activities that soldiers are engaged in, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner and his comrades had to deal with what appeared to be an obviously planned provocation: crowds of people all around, large signs saying “Stop Ethnic Cleansing”, flashing cameras everywhere and sneering cyclists refusing to disperse. Thus, it came as no surprise that when one of these “innocent” young chaps decided to bump into a soldier with his bicycle and initiate the whole fracas; a very good soldier fell for the trap.

The whole incident is sickening for several reasons. For starters, these people take advantage of the fact that only in Israel – not in America, not in a European country, and certainly not in an Arab country – can they get away with such nonsense. They know this and they flaunt it in our face. However, much more infuriating is the fact that we even let such people into our country in the first place. Do we not have any self-respect? And on top of this, rather than having the police – who are trained for such encounters – deal with the whole mess, we foolishly dump it on our soldiers. However the most irritating part of it all, especially in light of the above, is how several of our illustrious political and military leaders were so quick to condemn Shalom Eisner. One can only wonder in cynicism if these same people, as well as the others who quickly denounced Eisner, lifted a voice in protest or shed a tear when viewing the events in Amona a few years back, a particularly gory affair that in comparison made the recent event look like a Lassie episode.

Putting the anger and frustration aside, for anyone who is interested in fighting for the truth in a world that has seemingly gone mad, there are some very important lessons that can be learned from the event. The first is to be aware of the age we live in, namely a highly technological era where any amateur can film an event and potentially broadcast it to thousands or millions via You Tube, Facebook, or the like. This simply cannot be ignored. Thus Shalom Eisner’s statement after the event that for a soldier it’s more important to complete his mission than to worry about how he looks while performing it, although true in a perfect world, is unfortunately naïve given the current reality.

As a result, for anyone who is sick of the lies and hypocrisy, be it in Israel or the world, and really wants to work for change, it’s not enough to simply stand on the street corner and shout the truth. How something is said or how someone looks while performing an act frequently has more impact than anything else in the eyes or ears of the viewer. In this realm we need to learn from some of our leaders. Although many of them appear to be nauseatingly concerned about the reaction of the world, not just in the current Eisner affair but in many previous incidents as well, they do have a healthy appreciation of the power of images and statements in shaping public opinion (even if they are frequently inept in their own attempts). This truth needs to be internalized and the technological means at our disposal need to be more effectively utilized.

The second lesson is that being involved is not enough. In other words, although the army is full of many idealistic, highly motivated soldiers, the real power in the IDF is in the hands of those who are influenced by the same western-liberal values that are prevalent in other areas of Israeli society. Thus it makes no difference that most Israelis would want someone like a Shalom Eisner with them if they headed into battle, especially after his heroics in recovering a dead body from a tank in the Second Lebanon War. In today’s reality, Lieutenant Colonel Shalom Eisner was pronounced guilty by the head of the IDF the moment the very brief video hit You Tube.

Similarly in the political realm, despite the presence in the Likud of more and more nationalistic and idealistic MKs, not only have they been unable to cause a real change of direction by the party, but they have been powerless in preventing Binyamin Netanyahu from pulling the Likud towards the left during his second stint as Prime Minister. For example, during his 3-year tenure there was a housing freeze in Judea and Samaria, a declaration of support by a Likud Prime Minister for the creation of a Palestinian State in Judea and Samaria, and the placement of the powerful and influential defense ministry in the hands of a very unpopular and anti-settlement politician.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/analysis/the-lessons-of-the-eisner-affair/2012/04/25/

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