Three key observations on the Israeli elections

Learning from the past and how Oslo became possible, looking at the present with Netanyahu as opposed to Blue and White, and planning for a future with a united Religious Zionism.

Rabbi Yaacov Meidan, Rosh Yeshivat Har Etzion

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1. Twenty-eight years ago, Israel underwent a left-wing political upset that dethroned the Yitzchak Shamir government and set up a government headed by Yitzchak Rabin in its place. This happened despite a majority of votes for the Right. The Tchiya party and the party of Rav Levinger did not pass the electoral threshold (which was relatively low at the time), wasting thousands of votes and thereby allowing the Left to set up a government and sign the Oslo accords, enabled by the non-Zionist Arab parties.

For a brief while, on the sad night during which the results became known, we hoped that Rabin, as a former Chief of Staff and a security expert, would be cognizant of the security needs of the state, even if he followed a different ideology. Very quickly we found out that Yossi Beilin, who was very far from being security minded, was running the show. The Oslo Accords, in full detail, were placed on Rabin’s desk almost against his will. But Rabin was roped in and supported this policy in public despite its irrationality and despite the many terror victims who piled up from the start of negotiations, before the agreement was even signed.

In penning these lines I want to convince the tired Right to find the strength to go our and vote on Election Day and perhaps even to serve as volunteers before and during Election day.
I have no interest in discussing Gantz, despite the possibly criminal investigation of the Fifth Dimension company of which he was CEO. The man leaves an impression of someone not very strong and without any firm ideology. This may sometimes have advantages. Yet behind him there is a man who is very determined and clever, a good politician, who knows exactly where he wants to go. I fear that Rabin’s Beilin will be in Gantz’s case – Ofer Shelach, a clear-cut man of the Left, whose love of Torah or of the Land are clearly questionable. Avi Nissenkorn, as well, is a labor union politician whose path is clear to him in the economic sphere. These two have many sympathizers in the Blue and White party, even if those regularly presented for us to view are the more mainstream Yoaz Hendel, Tzvi Hauser, Hili Tropper and Elazar Stern. Those four's ability to influence matters will be like that of Motta Gur in Rabin’s government: weak to non-existent. Shelach and his friends are stronger than they. The Arabs in Judea and Samaria have proven in the last generation that they understand Netanyahu’s message very well. That is why terror attacks were few and their shockwaves subsided rapidly. There is a strong chance that they also understand the message communicated by Shelach and his friends, and that we will feel the results on our flesh as we did during the Oslo period.

2. I don’t think I am able to convince dyed in the wool Blue and White voters. They are “locked-in” on the need to push out Netanyahu, and won’t listen to other arguments. The entire Left is mobilized to bring down Netanyahu, and the Right is tired, indifferent and ready for any candidate for Prime Minister who will save them from another round of elections. I see the tired Right in the communities of Judea and Samaria and in other places. They may fall victim to Oslo III or worse.

In penning these lines I want to convince the tired Right to find the strength to go our and vote on Election Day and perhaps even to serve as volunteers before and during Election day. If each one of us calls five people – such as a neighbor, a relative, a friend from synagogue, and a friend from work – and urges them to vote, we’ll gain another seat. This can be critical. I remember how our unbounded volunteering contributed 24 years ago to changing an election result by a margin of just a few votes. That’s when Netanyahu was ‘born’ as Prime Minister.

3.  In the right at present, religious Zionism is struggling for its place among thousands of members of its former institutions, who are running after the Likud. We will briefly mention three points. First, Netanyahu is a good prime minister when it comes to foreign policy, security and the economy. Corporate affairs and domestic needs are of no interest to him, and he willingly hands them to his coalition partners. If the haredi parties receive these ministries, religious Zionism will have to settle for crumbs from the coalition table, and that is how society in Israel will look. It is our responsibility - and it is in our hands.

Secondly, without  a strong religious Zionism, non-haredi Israeli society may be left with no connection to Torah. It may be left with a Jewish democratic state whose Judaism will be pallid and powerless, unable to cope with the pressures of the general culture. It could cause the Judaism that we leave for our sons to be devoid of any attractive elements.

Third, the rift and intolerance between liberal religious Zionism and Torani religious Zionism may lead us to a situation in which there will be no political representation of religious Zionism, neither the Torani group nor its liberal sister. The existing alliance today and the ability to work together in harmony, after hard and bitter struggles, between Naftali Bennett and his friends and Bezalel Smotritz and his friends, are not to be taken lightly, and can be called a real miracle.

Let us not forget that the two religious Zionist factions still pray in one synagogue and serve together in the IDF's field units.

The differences are great, but you can join them hand in hand. On election day, let us not allow the miracle to slip away through indifference or by voting for parties with other agendas.

Translated from the Hebrew, appeared in Makor Rishon February 28th 2020