'Bennett must stop pandering to Tel Aviv hipsters, LGBT couples'

Minister blasts Bennett for 'moving to the center', warning he will alienate party's base. 'Bennett will be left bald from both sides'.

David Rosenberg ,

Gay pride parade, Tel Aviv (file). Civil marriage rejected by  Knesset on Wednesday.
Gay pride parade, Tel Aviv (file). Civil marriage rejected by  Knesset on Wednesday.

Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel (Jewish Home) blasted party chief Naftali Bennett, accusing him of pushing the Jewish Home party to the center and away from the party’s base of support.

The Jewish Home party, founded in 2008 as a successor of the National Religious Party (NRP), was created with the intention of establishing a single, unified party for the nationalist camp, encompassing the NRP and the National Union. While the two parties had run together on a joint list in 2006, they had never formally merged into a single faction.

Yet the much-anticipated Jewish Home-National Union merger never panned out, and in 2009 the two parties ran on separate lists.

In 2013 and 2015, under the leadership of Jewish Home chairman Naftali Bennett, the Jewish Home and National Union formed a joint list, yet still remained separate factions.

Over the past few months, Bennett has pressed the National Union to merge with the larger Jewish Home – a demand the National Union has rebuffed repeatedly.

On Thursday, Ariel responded to Bennett’s attempts to pressure the NU into a merger, accusing him of leading the party to the center – and a way from its traditional base of support.

“Bennett thinks he can get votes from the center, assuming he can get more mandates from there, but he won’t succeed.” Ariel told Shivi, in an interview that will be published in its entirety on Friday, NRG reports.

Ariel cited a number of issues he says separate his National Union faction - which in the past has billed itself as a more conservative, more staunchly right-wing alternative to the NRP - from the Jewish Home.

“If Naftali [Bennett] doesn’t want to change the Western Wall deal [expanding the Reform movement’s section at the Wall], and doesn’t want to strengthen the Chief Rabbinate, and if he is prepared to have [infrastructure] work done on Shabbat that we aren’t willing to have done because they are against Jewish law, so we’re not on the same page.”

Bennett, Ariel continued, appears to be actively pushing the Jewish Home towards the center, a move Ariel claims is not only a violation of the party’s principles, but a tactical mistake. The national religious public, Ariel argued, is the party’s base, and appeals to groups traditionally distant from the Israeli right are bound to fail.

“From a political standpoint, this is a serious mistake on Minister Bennett’s part. He won’t get any votes from hipsters in Tel Aviv or from same-sex couples. There are others who get those votes – the Likud, Yair Lapid, and Moshe Kahlon.”

The move to the center, Ariel warned, would not only fail, but was liable to alienate traditional Jewish Home voters.

“This will also drive away the national religious community, which wants a party that is national religious. What is most likely to happen from this approach is that [Bennett] will be left ‘bald’ from both the center and the right. It is a mistake politically, ideologically, and practically.”