There is a battle raging in Israel's Religious Zionist movement, which consists of at least three parties – Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home), Ichud Leumi (National Union), and Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power), with the New Right party of Naftali Bennet and Ayelet Shaked, not classically in the Religious Zionist camp, now planning on running alone, while reserving the possibility of joining a technical bloc as we get closer to the March 2 elections.
Despite the desire of the public, including most Jewish Home members, this has not happened - and what is the reason? It has become clear that the Jewish Home leader, Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz and his followers are avoiding primaries, referring to the free ballot as an attempt to “undermine” his leadership.
Transportation Minister and head of the National Union leader Betzalel Smotrich, along with a majority of the Jewish Home central committee, has been demanding primaries or at least a large leadership survey to revive public involvement, public confidence and enable a good showing on Election Day. Despite the logic in this approach, Peretz and Jewish Home Director-General Nir Orbach have been strongly resisting the will of the people, ostensibly because time is short before the deadline to submit party lists. Apparently, however, the real reason is that Peretz is not likely to retain his top position if the disgruntled public decides.
Despite or perhaps because of Rabbi Peretz’s secretly and hastily arranged agreement with Otzma Yehudit’s Itamar Ben-Gvir to run as a joint list, the polls clearly show that the public is not happy. They feel that their democratic right to choose has been brutally stolen from them. Both Peretz and Ben-Gvir are welcome to run if there are primaries, and, despite their rogue agreement, which bypassed primaries, it should be pointed out that Ben-Gvir has previously voiced strong support for a free and open ballot. He agreed to Peretz’s offer, which appeared too good to refuse, but given the current chaos, he would be unlikely to stand in the way of a free and fair primary in which he might do very well
Please forgive my directness, but Rabbi Peretz and Nir Orbach, it’s not all about you. It’s about us.
Religious Zionism recognizes G-d’s guiding hand in the revival of the Jewish nation in our times and believes in our ability to achieve greatness in fulfillment of the prophetic vision. The makeup of the leadership and list of the Religious Zionist party, by whatever name it is called, has to reflect the will of the people who believe in that vison, not the will of the Knesset members who are there to serve the people.
Fear of losing a primary is not what should guide a politician who truly has the interests of the people at heart. Rabbi Peretz, please ignore those who are giving you bad advice that appeals to selfish concerns. You are better than that, which is why you were originally chosen to head the Jewish Home. It’s not too late to shift gears. Listen to the overwhelming majority of the people and voice your support for primaries!
If that doesn’t happen, the central committee of the Jewish Home will have to take the matter into its own hands and exercise responsibility towards the Religious Zionist public that has been so poorly represented in recent days.