In a sharp rebuke to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu Thursday, Bayit Yehudi chairman Naftali Bennett slammed him as being personally responsible for the broadcast of a Likud television commercial that he said shows Netanyahu's “true colors. It's just like in the 90s, when he tried to paint the National Religious public as 'extremist,'” Bennett wrote on his Facebook page.
At issue is a commercial the Likud has been broadcasting on Israeli TV stations, as part of the officially sanctioned election propaganda presentations by each party. The commercial displays photos of several of the members of the Bayit Yehudi list – with a voiceover telling the “real story” behind each one. According to the voiceover, Rabbi Eliyahu Dahan, a member of the list, sought to do away with a Knesset committee committed to women's rights, while Motti Yogev, former national director of Bnei Akiva, forced chapters to enforce separate activity groups for boys and girls. With appropriately ominous music playing in the background, the commercial urges voters to “know who you are voting for before you decide.”
Bennett slammed the attack on Yogev. “Here is a man who dedicated his life to the Jewish people. He served in a select IDF unit, and as Commander of the IDF's Judea and Samaria division. Afterwards he joined Bnei Akiva and helped the organization to grow.”
Yogev, he said, was not responsible for the separation of gender in Bnei Akiva. In fact, it was just the opposite. “When he became Bnei Akiva director there were 350 chapters of the organization, 15 of which had mixed-gender activities, as decided by parents and community leaders. There was substantial pressure on him to ban those chapters, but Yogev refused, because he felt it was wrong to throw out groups that had different lifestyles than the others had. Why should we force people to act against their beliefs?
“That's the whole story,” Bennett continued. “The Likud decided to besmirch the name of a wonderful man who has dedicated his life to the Jewish people, to paint him as primitive and benighted. And they are doing the same to others on our list,” he wrote.
Bennett said that the Likud's negative campaigning against the Bayit Yehudi would engender a similar response. “Until now I have avoided attacking the Prime Minister, preferring to stress the positives that we would bring. But there is a limit. Mr. Netanyahu,” continued Bennett, “the tactics you are using against us are exactly the same ones that others used against you, taking things out of context and falsifying them.
“Now you are doing it to us, the National Religious public. You are the head of the party and are responsible for this campaign. I urge you to stop broadcasting this ad, this is not the proper way. Instead, do what we do – present your vision and plans to the public without besmirching others. Trust the Israeli nation to make the right choice,” Bennett wrote.