Abraham Lincoln and Religious Zionists

Elections in Israel are the time when all or some of the people running for office try to fool all or some of the people voting. Why does it work?

Rochel Sylvetsky

OpEds Rochel Sylvetsky
Rochel Sylvetsky
]Yonatan Zindel Flash 90

One of President Abraham Lincoln's most often repeated sayings is: "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time".

Americans elected Barack Obama for a second term with a smaller majority than that of his first term, and Congress is now in Republican hands, seemingly proving Lincoln correct. Small comfort, but better than nothing.

Here in Israel, the first part of the saying is useful for helping ordinary citizens survive the current election period, and can help them understand why what happens again and again in every Israeli election may occur once more. And here in Israel, there seems to be a fourth group of people, one made up of intelligent and upright voters who act as though they want to be fooled, either consciously or subconsciously.

The hypothetical existence of this additional group of people can explain the surveys that predict a close race between Herzog-Livni and Netanyahu, despite the large sums in the fictitious NGO's Herzog  created to help fund Ehud Barak's campaign (and his pleading Israel's equivalent of the 5th Amendment when questioned by the authorities at the time, a shocking story almost ignored by Israel's leftist media who are now busy counting the deposit on returnable bottles Sarah Netanyahu is alleged to have failed to report).

And also despite the abject failure of UN Resolution 1701 that Tzipi Livni negotiated to end the war in Lebanon (and the failure of everything else she has done, excepting successful party-hopping), Herzog's shameful criticism of Israel recently while in Europe, the V15 public relations ploy - and the duo's frightening plans to give in to Obama and Abbas if they lead the government. Polls show that most Israelis are right wing, so who is fooling whom?

Lincoln's statement can also be used to explain how Israeli citizens gave 19 seats to political novice Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party in the last election, and are expected to give it half that number, now that those people who cannot be fooled all the time have left for other parties.  Those same words explain the chutzpa shown by Herzog and Livni in calling their joint list "the Zionist Camp" when its list boasts the people who already skewed the meaning of the word Peace, as in Peace Process (aka the Oslo War).

George Orwell would be pleased to see that the same people who gave
Politicians and media personalities in Israel must believe that there are a good number of people who can be fooled all the time, so they have once again recycled the tired mantra that "your money is going to the settlements"...
rise to the expression "Terror is Peace" have spawned "Zionist is anti-Zionist". Their list of candidates includes someone who is against the national anthem for being too chauvinistic and someone who tells Israelis not to enlist in the occupying Israeli army, for starters.

Politicians and media personalities in Israel must believe that there are a good number of people who can be fooled all the time, so they have once again recycled the tired mantra that "your tax money is going to the settlements", when it is patently obvious that if the Jews in Judea and Samaria, tax-paying citizens like other Israelis, had gone to the Negev to build communities, they would need budget allocations for roads, schools and infrastructure in the same amounts. 

However, some encouragement can be gleaned from seeing that one actually cannot fool everyone all the time, noting the failure of the Sarah Netanyahu returnable bottles story noted above, which simply did not get off the ground, probably because most people either throw them away or also forget what they did with the money.

How does the Religious Zionist sector figure in Lincoln's saying? How about those who voted for the Jewish Home party and feel, maybe justifiably, that they were fooled, that they got something else, especially when it comes to questions of religion and state - the backbone of Religious Zionism? How about those people who feel they can only support a party that does exactly what they want it to do and whose views mirror theirs perfectly? 

Some of them are thinking of moving over to the small, ideological and homogeneous haredi-Zionist party of MK Eli Yishai- whose views may have no influence in the Knesset due to its size. Some, on the ultra liberal side of the religious spectrum, have announced that they are voting for Likud, a secular party that has no interest at all in their views on religion and state.

In the previous two governments, Prime Minister Netanyahu brought in Ehud Barak and then Tzipi Livni, giving each ministries and positions that prevented the government from acting as a right wing body. If the Likud finds itself strong enough to do without Jewish Home this time, it can once again turn to the left and bring in Herzog-Livni for a unity government. This can be prevented by a strong Jewish Home showing.

If Netanyahu does not need Jewish Home in his coalition, the strength of the Religious Zionists, a constantly attacked sector whose ideology and vision are apparent to all, and which finally united under one umbrella in the last elections, may melt away just when crucial decisions on the Land of Israel and its connection to Judaism are on the Knesset agenda.

Lincoln's saying does not suit the Religious Zionist sector, but something else he said is most appropriate: "A house divided against itself cannot stand".

It is undeniably true that the Jewish Home had a lot to learn about maintaining the principles of religion and state, originally erred badly in planning its list of candidates, and that its leader evinces an obvious ambition to run the country that rubs some people the wrong way -- but it also can point to a roster of most impressive accomplishments. Add to that the pro-Israel, unapologetic Zionism of Naftali Bennett in the Israeli media, and the breath of fresh air he brings us while facing down anti-Semitic interviewers and anti-Zionist audiences overseas, this in excellent English. 

And last, but far from least, it is axiomatic that political power, power the Religious Zionists must have if they are to preserve and protect, influence and educate, is solely a function of how many hands a party can raise in the Knesset.