Otzma Yehudit Chair MK Itamar Ben Gvir may have started on a path from brilliant, provocative campaigner to a responsible politician, a path that could eventually lead him to become a bona fide statesman. On Monday, he published a column in Israel Hayom that the paper chose to run as its above-the-fold story, titled, “My brothers on the left, you haven’t lost your country.”
All the exclamation marks were in the original Hebrew…
My friends on the left: We are brothers!
Yes, despite the controversy, despite four election campaigns that led to a polarized discourse and the sharpening of what’s different and divisive, despite the demonization and hatred, despite all this, we are brothers!
You didn’t lose your country, the country is you and us together, and we have no intention of changing it.
I hear about the fear of “religious coercion,” and I ask myself – who will I coerce? My brother Shai who doesn’t wear a kippah, or Zvika Vogel and Almog Cohen, both “secular” candidates that I insisted on bringing to Otzma Yehudit?
I hear about the fear of a “thought police,” or banning demonstrations, and I remind you that the ones who fought more than all the “civil rights” organizations for freedom of expression and the right to demonstrate were us!
I hear all those that remind me of the stolen car ornament of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (27 years ago!) and the picture of Baruch Goldstein, but I remind you of the path I’ve taken since then and the change: I matured, moderated, and realized that life is more complex.
TODAY I AM NOT GENERALIZING ABOUT ALL THE ARABS
Today I don’t see all the people on the left as one. Of course, I make a distinction between [Joint Arab List MK] Ofer Cassif and the Zionist left that loves Israel.
Make no mistake! We will make sure that a national right-wing government is established here, a government that will restore personal security to the streets and governorships to the Negev and the Galilee, and will hold its head high and not bow down before the threats to annihilate us.
I DON’T APOLOGIZE FOR WHO I AM
I don’t mean to apologize for who I am, but I just think that if you get to know me, you will change your attitude about me and my positions. For too many days and in too many places, too many Israelis have been afraid of enemies at home and abroad. Never again.
The reality in which Jews everywhere are fleeing from rioting mobs in the heart of Jerusalem is a defeatist diasporic reality. Mothers in Be’er Sheva should not fear for the safety of their teenage daughters in the mall or on the street. A soldier who goes on a pass in Acco shouldn’t have to take off his uniform when he walks home.
The startup and cybernation has lost its power to survive inside our home. Running away, bowing down, and apologizing has become the norm – that’s what the elections were about, and that’s why we won.
ARAB CITIZENS ARE ENTITLED TO PROTECTION
The Jewish identity of all of us is not sectarian or political, it is the bedrock of our existence and our soul. In exile, we suffered persecution and became united, but here of all places, in the country we founded, there is a retreat from our beating heart, the Jewish heart. Reconnecting is not done by force––any such connection is doomed to failure––but there is room for reacquainting, refreshing the memory, and bringing hearts and heritage closer together.
And many of you feel frustrated, which sometimes leads to fear which sometimes manifests itself in hatred. But these are feelings that originate from remoteness, from a lack of familiarity.
If you let us get closer, if you listen to the content of our words, you’ll discover that we are brothers. You will find that we agree on 90 percent of things, that the message we bring and the actions we promote are for us as much as they are for you.
The ax that’s wielded against a mother in Haifa, or the knife being pulled against a young man in Ashkelon, are not expressions of electoral considerations. Likewise, our national security, which we need so much, is not meant to protect a particular sector or according to political affiliation. All of us need personal security – in the left-wing kibbutzim and the peripheral towns, on Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv, and Rager Boulevard in Beer Sheva. The governability that we lost in the Negev and the Galilee must be returned to all of us – the voters of Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit, and the voters of Labor and Meretz.
And yes, the Arab citizens of Israel are also entitled to protection and a sense of security. The crime problem in that sector has intensified into an urgent danger. We must not accept the horrifying daily reality in which innocents are murdered in broad daylight or under the cover of darkness, without it coming up on the public agenda and without requiring the government to provide protection and security to Israel’s Arab citizens as well. The truth must be told, even if it’s painful and stinging – the indifference of the State of Israel regarding the epidemic of murder and crime in the Arab sector is immoral, it is unacceptable, and it hurts all of us.
In the coming days, with God’s help, a national government will be established here. There will be more disputes, there’s still a lot to fight about. The ten percent that separate us from each other can fill newspaper Shabbat and Holiday editions and supplements. But there is nothing to fear and nothing to hate – we are brothers.
What can I say? The above is a heartfelt message, and I identify with all of it, and yet I have zero hope that the other side is open at this time to hear it. At the moment they are still lamenting their loss of control over “their” country, just as they did in 1977 when nearly 30 years of Labor rules ended.
The only way to win their hearts, Itamar Ben Gvir, is by being a good Minister of Internal Affairs – paying attention to the rank-and-file cops as well as the commanders, insisting on building up the police force, implementing an iron fist policy in the security prisons, and calling to account the “Jewish Department” of the Shin Bet who has made it its mission to oppress and terrorize the Jews of Judea and Samaria. You keep it up for four years and the country will love you.