Benjamin Sipzner, an Oleh from New York, was the Anglo coordinator for outreach and events for the Religious Zionist party in the last two elections. He shared with The Jewish Press his ideas regarding presumed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s scandalous mistreatment of presumed Minister Bezalel Smotrich.
Bibi Netanyahu, head of the Likud party, may be planning to push Bezalel Smotrich and the Religious Zionist Party to the background of his prospective coalition – if he plans on including them at all.
Since the November 1 elections, there have been constant reports of meetings and negotiations between Likud and the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties about what ministries they hope to receive in the coalition government.
Surprisingly, the Religious Zionist Party has not been mentioned in reports of potential appointments and positions. It’s even been reported by certain news outlets that prospective Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu plans to close agreements on budgets, ministries, and positions with the Shas and United Torah Judaism parties and leave what’s left to the Religious Zionist Party after most of the decisions have already been made.
It is Smotrich’s responsibility to push back on these developments and stand firm for the five hundred thousand voters who voted for his party in the most recent election.
The Religious Zionist Party is the second largest party in Netanyahu’s prospective right-wing government. This past election was historic for parties representing the Religious Zionist community in Israeli election history. The party received 516,470 votes which accounted for 14 representatives in the Knesset (800 votes short of 15 seats), and 10.8 percent of the vote. The previous ceiling for any religious Zionist party in Israeli history was reached in 2013 by the Naftali Bennett led Jewish Home Party when they received 345,985 votes which accounted for 12 seats in Knesset and 9.1 percent of the vote. In the negotiations after that election, Netanyahu moved away from the traditional right-wing parties instead choosing to form a coalition with Yair Lapid and his left-wing Yesh Atid party. As an afterthought, Netanyahu brought in Naftali Bennett to be education minister, a much less prestigious position.
In 2009 Netanyahu campaigned and promised to form a full right-wing government with the National Unity Party playing a key role. After the results came in and it became a possibility, he turned to Tzipi Livni and Ehud Barak and formed a centrist left wing government, leaving the main religious Zionist party led by Yaakov Katz (National Unity Party) on the sidelines.
After Israel’s election a year and a half ago, Netanyahu tried to do all that he could to remain prime minister. This included having Ra’am, an Arab party which is pro terrorism support the coalition. Smotrich stood firm and did not let that happen, and Bennett and Lapid formed a government with Ra’am. This stance by Smotrich saved the right-wing block from a stain that would have been remembered for generations. In addition, much of the pressure and planning which took down Bennett’s government is attributed to Smotrich who worked behind the scenes to bring MK Idit Silman (a former representative in Bennett’s party) back to the right wing. In the wake of the recent elections, Netanyahu is dealing with a powerhouse in Bezalel Smotrich and shouldn’t underestimate him.
Netanyahu knows this upcoming government will probably be his last. If Bibi wants to be remembered in Israel’s history as a legendary right-wing leader, he can’t turn to the left to form a government. This is the same left that demonized him and built entire campaign strategies against him for years. The Israeli public knows this and will call him a traitor if he betrays his right-wing partners once again. Netanyahu’s future legacy may force him to form a right-wing government.
Because of Smotrich’s integrity, commitment to his ideals and political prowess the right-wing block is where it is today. Smotrich’s devotion to right wing policy moved the Israeli public to vote for the most right-wing government in Israel’s history. The result was a mandate for improved security, Jewish Identity, Judicial reform, and widespread Jewish settlement. The Religious Zionist party, after its impressive showing in the election has positioned itself to be the beacon for right wing governance in this prospective government.
According to a report on Monday from Israeli journalist Amit Segal Netanyahu and Smotrich haven’t spoken since last Wednesday about the prospective government to pressure Smotrich into giving in. Bezalel, for the sake of our future and our values stand up for what this country voted for and hold firm for what we deserve.