Rabbi Zvi Thau, a disciple of Rabbi Zvi Yehuda Kook, and co-founder and Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Har Hamor in Jerusalem, who in 2019 inspired the establishment of the right-wing Noam party to promote Jewish family values and fight pro-LGBT policies, on Sunday night issued an opinion letter calling for the creation of a 59-seat, right-wing coalition headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu which would rely on the parliamentary support of the Islamic party Ra’am.
Religious Zionism leader MK Bezalel Smotrich has resisted pressure from everywhere in his constituency—risking his political future in the process—to enter such a government. Over the past few weeks, he and his colleagues have fought back gallantly, and then this letter hit them from the back, written as it were by the only major voice in Israel which is to the right of them.
At this point, the best Netanyahu can do, assuming Yamina chairman Naftali Bennett is true to his word, is a coalition government with Likud (30), Shas (9), Yamina (7), and United Torah Judaism (7). That’s 53 MKs. With a deal in which Ra’am (4) supports the government by abstaining, Netanyahu has 57. Without Smotrich there is no right-wing government led by Netanyahu.
In his unexpected letter, Rabbi Thau speaks in general about the lessons of the Mt. Meron tragedy, which must be the removal of baseless hatred from public discourse in Israel, stressing that “we must reject with disgust the propaganda of hatred and slander regarding the honor of our Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu,” whose “entire goal is to oust the prime minister by spreading hatred among the public on the one hand, and preparing judicial hate indictments against the prime minister on the other.”
The rabbi also noted that the plot of the far-left elements is not just to oust Benjamin Netanyahu, “but rather, their purpose is much more alarming and dangerous, in all matters concerning the weakening of the state as the nation-state of our people. The extreme ‘progressive’ left is ready to realize its dangerous ideas, such as the repeal of the Nationality Law, and the declaration of the state as the state of ‘all its citizens,’ in attacking the IDF as the army of the people prepared to defeat our enemies, and in promoting the ideas of ‘postmodernism’ in general, such as the distortion of personal and family consciousness through the education system, and the continuation of the violation of Shabbat as the sanctified day of the Jewish state, the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate and the separation of religion from the state, thus creating a separation between the parts of the nation, God forbid, and all of it in a series of destructive laws that will, of course, include the sanctioning of the status of the judicial system as the decider in any issue of national values.”
Having said that, Rabbi Thau argues that the only bulwark against such a deterioration of the nation and the state of Israel is Prime Minister Netanyahu, and his solution for the fact that there isn’t a majority of Jewish MKs at the moment who support Netanyahu’s leadership, “Therefore, I call on everyone who has the power to act to the best of their ability to place the power in the hands of our Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to form the government, to gather to him all the forces that have a Jewish heart among them and continue to lead the people of Israel for the sake of their people and their land.”
Or, as everyone in Israel understood Rabbi Thau’s message to be: Bezalel Smotrich, abandon your decision not to enter a government that’s supported by an Islamic party that does not recognize the validity of everything the good Rabbi listed above – and join a Netanyahu coalition government which would be supported from the outside by, well, someone had to say it – the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Israel’s politics, there aren’t too many principled players, and those who are either don’t have the power to do something with their principles or don’t have the courage to hold on to them in the face of adversity. Which is why I was heartened on Monday morning to receive the following statement the Religious Zionism party, led by Bezalel Smotrich, who might as well be considered the leader of Religious Zionism, the concept:
“There is not and will not be a change in the position of Religious Zionism regarding reliance on supporters of terrorists who deny the existence of Israel as a Jewish state. Anyone who thinks of forming such a government that will endanger the Jewish state will bear the mark of Cain to the end of his life.
MK Bezalel Smotrich clarified the matter to the prime minister at their meeting last night and even made it clear that he would use all the means at his disposal to make sure that such a government would not be formed in any case and on every side of the political map.
It is very unfortunate that Prime Minister Netanyahu, who has declared on every podium that he would in no way form a government with supporters of terrorism, is working tirelessly to form such a government.
There is a good outline that allows for the formation of a right-wing government today. All players know the details of this outline, but it requires concessions from all players. Mr. Prime Minister, Gideon [Sa’ar], Naftali, these games are endangering the future of the State of Israel. We propose to end the ego games and form a right-wing government immediately.”
Should Gideon Sa’ar’s New Hope party, whose agenda is essentially identical to Yamina’s, enter a Netanyahu government, his 6 votes would make it a solid, right-wing, no-Islamists-need-apply government.
Here’s the rub: while Bennett has no problem joining a Netanyahu-led government, Sa’ar made it the focal point of his promise to his voters to never, ever, under any circumstances, join a Netanyahu-led government. And so, for the Smotrich call to arms to work, the concession he mentioned would have to come from Netanyahu, meaning he should let another Likud senior leader be the next PM.
What would Rabbi Thau say about this possibility?