'Jewish Home is blurring stance on religious matters'

Jewish Home Minister: Party shouldn't sacrifice national religious values for wider appeal. 'We must not blur status as a religious party.'

Shimon Cohen,

Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel
Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel
Miriam Alster/Flash 90

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Minister of Agriculture Uri Ariel of the Jewish Home party referred to Party Chairman Naftali Bennett's announcement of his intention to run for prime minister, and to open the party's ranks towards this end.

Over the weekend, Bennett had said in an interview with Channel 2, "I think that this government is a good nationalist government. It's a government led by Netanyahu, and we need to let it govern. However, when Netanyahu's stint is over, I intend to run for prime minister. All of the changes I made to the Education Ministry, I will bring to the Defense Ministry, Israel's economy, and other spheres."

"Since I first entered public service, I have done everything I could for this country. This is how I acted in the past, and I will do so in the future as well."

Bennett also discussed the rumors that he would run for prime minister as part of the Likud party instead of as part of his current Jewish Home party.

"What the Jewish Home needs to do - well, today, its platform is problematic because it's very narrow, it's seen as a niche-type party. But I believe in this platform, and what we need to do is to open the Jewish Home to new audiences, to the entire nation of Israel," he explained.

Ariel noted that this is not the first time Bennett has expressed the desire to run for prime minister. "There is something admirable in the aspiration to contribute more, to do more and to advance the country to better places. It is a positive aspiration from which people benefit and through which important things are achieved.”

He hastened, however, to draw a distinction between running for prime minister and the idea of opening the ranks of the Jewish Home to a wider section of the public.

“Opening up the party is something else. It is a national religious party, even if it is called the 'Jewish Home,' and that is the spirit in which it should conduct itself.”

“That is the main test here. If there is an attempt here to turn the Jewish Home into a second Likud, we are not needed, because a Likud party already exists. We have to strengthen the party’s national religious aspect, and that does not have to prevent anyone from joining the party. The opening of the party that exists today is fine, but if the intention is to open in a comprehensive manner such that no national religious character is left, I hope that this is not the intention, despite the fact that things sometimes appear that way.”

Regarding Bennett's remarks to Arutz Sheva sahying that he does not intend to diminish or obscure the values ​​of religious Zionism, but to open the party to additional audiences who accept the principle of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel according to the Torah of Israel, Ariel says that he himself did not hear the words said by Bennett, and it seems likely from recent discussions on religion and state that this is not the direction in which Bennett is leading the party.

"We have not heard anything like this in the discussions on Shabbat matters, and we have not heard such statements on other issues that touch upon the core of a Jewish state as we want to live in. Unfortunately, we are blurring religious matters to a large extent. It’s not as if nothing was ever said, but we are largely blurring statements to be attractive to centrist voters. If there were a clear statement made about religious matters and our Land, it wouldn’t be a problem to open up the party. That would be something else - but that’s not what I see happening at the moment.”


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