Bezalel Smotrich once again spoke honestly about his hopes and dreams as a religious Jew, knowing full well that his fairly straight forward and even beautiful, some may say, statement of his passion would be willfully misunderstood, picked out of context and misrepresented by his current chief secular enemy, Israel Beiteinu chairman Avigdor Liberman.
At a Monday conference of the religious-Zionist Beit Hillel Rabbis, Smotrich said: “We would like the State of Israel to follow Torah and Halacha, but this is not possible because some people think differently and we need to get along with them.”
Smotrich, who serves as transportation minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s provisional government, estimated that work on Saturday could be avoided for the most part by his ministry.
“Most of the problems can be solved with care and attention,” the minister said. “The same way we know today to have a sustainable industry without polluting the environment, we also know how to maintain a modern state that must lay public infrastructure on a large scale without desecrating Shabbat.”
Within the hour, Avigdor Liberman, who allegedly began his political career in Rabbi Meir Kahane’s Kach party (he denies it), composed yet another anti-religious attack – as expected.
Using a topsy-turvy reading of Smotrich’s statement about how he wants Israel to follow Jewish halacha but can’t, out of respect to Israelis who think differently, Liberman attacked: “It’s unbelievable how once again, without even blinking, we hear Minister Smotrich declare that if it were up to him and his friends, he and they would have repealed the laws of the State of Israel and imposed on us a halachic state that operates only according to Torah law.”
This kind of dishonesty can only mean that Liberman does not respect his potential voters’ intelligence in being able to read and comprehend simple text, or that he knows that the new voters he’s aiming for are such a rabid, anti-religious mob, they won’t care.
Riding that almost anti-Semitic wave, Kishinev-born Liberman raged at Smotrich: “So we have news for you: You won’t have to deal with us, because on September 18, a broad, liberal national government will be established here, without you and without anyone trying to force a halachic state on us.”
It appears Liberman has his own understanding of the meaning of “liberal,” but that’s an entirely different bowl of borscht.
Smotrich doubled down, taking to the airwaves Tuesday morning and releasing an angry statement to the press:
“Liars, we’re fed up with you!
“I understand the cynicism and hatred of Judaism of Liberman and Lapid, they are ashamed of the very pair of words Jewish and State. But any media outlet or other person who participates in this dance is a liar looking to curb free speech, at best. No one will shut our mouths. Yes, we love the Shabbat, love the Torah and love Judaism.
“What’s been going on since yesterday is a classic, ugly curbing of free speech, a manipulation and distortion just to stir up more and more anti-religious and anti-Jewish sentiments.”
Smotrich is right, so we score this round in his favor, but with an asterisk, because, hey, he knew what he was doing last night – he planted this landmine in Liberman’s path, and… kaboom, more religious voters move over to United Right.