Prime Minister Benjamin (Bibi) Netanyahu is a strong leader, whose prowess on the diplomatic front in standing up for Israel is unrivaled. This is what the world believes, and, according to the recent local polling, it’s also what Israelis believe.
Here in Shiloh and in other parts of Samaria, Netanyahu is a familiar face before elections, often coming to plant a tree, to visit soldiers and residents, and making bold promises to the “pioneering Jews” and to other religious Zionists about what he will do for the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Sovereignty, whether partial or almost total, whether in phases or as part of former US President Donald Trump’s “Deal of the Century, all of these promises have been recurring campaign pledges from Bibi that have garnered many thousands of votes for his leading Likud party, even among leaders of Judea and Samaria councils.
When it comes to such promises, this election is only slightly different. Netanyahu’s pre-election outreach has been strong as usual, and the promises are ever-present, if revised and updated. This year, with the less friendly President Joe Biden in the White House and with Biden’s much less sympathetic Democrats in control of Congress, Netanyahu has been walking an interesting tight rope, continuing to express support for popular national religious causes by promising to extend legality to “young settlements”, while carefully avoiding using the word “all”.
Should we believe his promises will come true? Let’s examine the track record. In Netanyahu’s twelve consecutive years as prime minister, he has repeatedly promised, especially at election time, to declare sovereignty over the strategic E1 area that cradles the eastern border of Jerusalem. The promise has still not been carried out and hasn’t even been approved. He has also pledged numerous times, particularly during his campaigns, to declare sovereignty over the Jordan Valley, this being a clear national consensus issue. Sadly, this promise has also not been fulfilled.
And then there is the issue of Khan al-Ahmar, the illegal Bedouin settlement near the Israeli city, Maale Adumim. In 2018, the left-leaning Supreme Court, in response to a right-wing petition, ordered Netanyahu to demolish the illegal outpost. Several years later, fearing international condemnation, Bibi continues to allow it to remain standing and expanding. He promises to demolish it if he continues as prime minister.
Last but not least, Netanyahu missed the opportunity presented by a friendly Trump administration to declare sovereignty over at least part of Judea and Samaria (to be completely honest, the leadership of Judea and Samaria was vociferously divided on whether to adopt Trump's plan) and at the very minimum, to greatly increase building in the Jewish communities. It has become increasingly obvious that the “young settlements that he now promises to legalize could have been legalized at various times during his twelve-year tenure.
On the other hand, there are two parties that are much more believable in their stated intention to legalize the young settlements, to demolish Khan Al Amar, and to begin the sovereignty process. Both Yamina, led by Naftali Bennett, and Religious Zionism, headed by Betzalel Smotrich, have made that pledge, although Bennett was careful to deemphasize the above issues early in the campaign, in his never-ending quest for centrist votes, returning to them so as not to lose rightist votes .
Smotrich, a dedicated parliamentarian and public servant who was also a successful Transportation Minister, has been the most ideologically consistent party leader and has never hidden Religious Zionism’s unabashed right-wing agenda, including on conservative social issues, such as support for the traditional family and in addition, his plan for reforming the judicial system.
Netanyahu has often been compared to Donald Trump. There are some similarities, but the comparison ends on the issue of promises. Trump’s “Promises Made Promises Kept” slogan was, indeed, accurate, especially regarding those pledges relating to Israel and to American resolve in the Middle East. Netanyahu, in his many years of stewardship over the challenge of rebuilding Judea and Samaria, promises aside, has actually been a failure, and, just three days before the election, in what may have been an unintended slip-of-tongue,or a candid admission of Israel's limitations, he announced that “annexation (sovereignty) will be only with American consent”. In other words, the promises are all talk, because everyone knows that the Biden administration will never consent to sovereignty in any way, shape, or form.
In summation, it is clear that only a very strong and sincere right-wing presence in the coalition will have a chance of pulling Netanyahu to the right.
A reminder from Israeli political history is a lesson to be heeded. In the 1992 elections, the radical left Meretz party received twelve seats, giving it great influence together with the Shimon Peres wing of Labor, subsequently succeeding in pulling the center-left Yitzhak Rabin further to the left, thus leading to the signing of the disastrous Oslo Accords. History can repeat itself, but this time in reverse. Only a strong right-wing presence in the coalition will pull Netanyahu to finally fulfill some of his promises.
Voting for Netanyahu’s Likud will not further the causes that religious Zionists believe in, but will, in fact, do the opposite, strengthening the stagnation of the past twelve years and the fear of acting proudly and assertively, without the consent of Washington. Admittedly, a vote for Bennett’s Yamina will serve those causes better than a vote for the center-right Likud, but for those who are tired of unfulfilled promises and of politicians “kicking the can down the road”, there is a better way. Those who are truly faithful to the complete Land of Israel for the People of Israel, should cast a ballot for Betzalel Smotrich and Religious Zionism (ט).
David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh Israel, is the author of the book, “Trump and the Jews” and five other books. Rubin is the founder and president of Shiloh Israel Children’s Fund, established after he and his then three-year-old son were wounded in a terror attack. He can be found at www.DavidRubinIsrael.com or at http://www.ShilohIsraelChildren.org