Jewish Home leader: We will open our party to everyone

Education Minister Bennett aims to break stereotype that PM can't be religious, emphasizes he won't encourage early elections.

Shimon Cohen,

Flash 90

Education Minister and Jewish Home Chairman Naftali Bennett spoke with Arutz Sheva about his intention to run for prime minister.

"First of all, I believe in the current coalition," Bennett said. "Even if it doesn't give us everything we want, it's a good nationalist government, and it works to advance the State of Israel. It would not be right to bring down this government, or to force early elections. I plan to run for prime minister when Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has finished his service."

"If we want to lead this country, we will need to be able to accept into our party people who are not religious, as well as haredim who share our values. We cannot rule people out based on which sector of society they belong to. This is our test. If we pass it, the sky is the limit."

Answering how his party will differ from the Likud if representatives of other sectors join its ranks, Bennett said, "We differ on the diplomatic level, as well as in how we see Judaism. Our core values are the Jewish value system, not Jabotinsky's beliefs.... We understand that our right to be here stems from our past, not from someone else's decision. This expresses itself in many ways. For example, we oppose a Palestinian state, while the Likud and its leader are vocal about their support for such a state."

"If we manage to open our ranks...unapologetically, we will be able to lead the country... If we have 20-25, or 30 Knesset seats, we will be able to make decisions... We need to leave behind the exile-type thinking that caused someone to ask me if a person wearing a kipa can lead the country. The fact is, this type of question is still asked, and this means there is still a stereotype."

Bennett admits that running for prime minister may be a challenge.

"Life isn't simple," he said. "From my perspective, it's not an obsession, it's an option and a desire to increase our influence. If we saw that we couldn't have an influence as ministers, I wouldn't think of doing this. The desire to lead comes from the fact that I look at our party and see how much influence we have as government ministers, and I realize that this is just the beginning, and see how much more we could do. We need changes in security issues. We're doing a lot in the education and justice systems, and we have what to add to other areas such as the economy, as well."

Regarding whether expanding his party's ranks would cause conflicts within his party, Bennett said, "When I said something new is happening, and that I'm bringing a secular woman (Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked - ed.) into the Jewish Home party...there were those who opposed it. Today, everyone understands that it was a dramatic change. It's hard to remember how things were five years ago... If we do things wrong, we'll go back to being marginalized and irrelevant. "

"In 2005, when Israel pulled out of Gaza, we didn't have a say in diplomatic, security, and economic matters.... I believe that Religious Zionism...adds to the State of Israel, and we need to strengthen it. But it's not either-or."

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