Criticism Flies as Jewish Home Hopefuls Debate

Three of the top Jewish Home candidates went head to head this week. Attacks, counterattacks over weak leadership.

Maayana Miskin ,

Bennett, Jeremy, Ari, Min. Hershkowitz
Bennett, Jeremy, Ari, Min. Hershkowitz

Three of the top candidates for the Jewish Home party went head to head this week as the primaries campaign kicked off. Current party head Minister Daniel Hershkowitz, Knesset faction head Zevulun Orlev and Naftali Bennett launched their first verbal attacks in a debate published in the Maayanei Hayeshua Sabbath pamphlet.

Hershkowitz accused Orlev of not giving him even a single day to truly lead the party. “I came to understand that while a public committee had chosen me… I was trapped in the old way of doing things. I found myself number one on the list but not the head of the party. MK Orlev was the head,” he said.

Hershkowitz said he supports opening the party not only to those who are not religious, but “even to non-Jews.” Candidates have traditionally been members of the religious-Zionist community, but the current primaries candidates include Zionist activist Ayelet Shaked, who is secular.

MK Orlev suggested that Hershkowitz lacks experience. “We need unity, and only an experienced politician can do that,” he said. “When an inexperienced politician is at the head, that’s part of what causes division.”

Orlev also focused his criticism on Bennett, a former advisor to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “Our community doesn’t go for ‘stars,’” he said. “I welcome Naftali Bennett, but my suggestion for him is: be an MK first. Being in Bibi’s office and in the Yesha Council isn’t the real world of politics.”

Finally, he targeted Shaked as well. “I won’t be able to look in the eyes of our wives and daughters… if not a single religious woman is elected to the list, and religious-Zionist women are represented by a woman who defines herself as a secular woman,” he argued.

Bennett accused both Orlev and Hershkowitz of failing their voters. “The reason my colleagues, with all their experience, brought the party from 12 seats to three is that they became irrelevant,” he charged. “The party became irrelevant to Israeli society.”

“Our community is sick of being the ‘gabbai,’ [synagogue sextant -ed.] of being petted and thrown a few million shekels so it will stay quiet, but having no real influence,” he declared.

“We are a group that’s here to make real change,” he continued. “We don’t need to be afraid to open up, we need to stop playing around with protocols and committees and the like.”