Bezalel Smotrich and Binyamin Netanyahu
Bezalel Smotrich and Binyamin NetanyahuArutz Sheva

The rapid rise of the Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit alliance, led by Betzalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir was seemingly disrupted this week by the sudden appearance of a leaked private audio recording of MK Smotrich calling Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu “a liar” and worse, which certainly sounded like odd words coming from a key member of Netanyahu’s possible future coalition. Smotrich quickly apologized for the harsh words, and Netanyahu forgave, but the effect lingers. What really happened and what does it mean for the coming election?

Firstly, there is a basic Jewish principle that a sincere apology should be accepted.According to this principle and knowing that it came from an upstanding citizen, one whose behavior as a dedicated public servant is usually praised by many shades of the political spectrum, the sincere apology should seemingly be accepted, we should all move on and understand that the matter is between Smotrich and Netanyahu and of course the Almighty G-d. However, as any astute political observer will tell you, anytime there is a leak, it’s also important to examine where it came from and what might be the agenda of the leaker, as well as who stands to gain from it, in order to really understand the full picture.

According to Smotrich, we are talking about an old recording, apparently from the tense period when the last governing coalition was being negotiated. At that time, Netanyau was widely reported as wanting to include the Muslim Brotherhood affiliated Ra’am party led by Mansour Abbas, in a Netanyahu and Likud-led coalition, in order to reach the magic number of 61 in the 120 seat Knesset. Smotrich and Religious Zionism vetoed the idea, standing up to intense pressure from Likud emissaries to reach an arrangement, any arrangement, to enable the support of Abbas and his Jew-hating party. Eventually, Abbas was welcomed instead into the Bennett-Lapid government, with all of the damage that followed, as a result of the tragic dependence on an Islamic extremist type party.

Those were very intense days and the political argument was a fierce one on the Right, with passions running high, so Smotrich’s words in those days, however unnerving, have to be understood in that context.

Nonetheless, with the recent support for Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit in this campaign soaring, much of it at the expense of the Likud, which has seen a concurrent drop in the polls, it seems that the leak may have been just one more political rabbit that Netanyahu's supporters or Likud MKs have pulled out of the proverbial hat. Sure, Smotrich did some inappropriate and unwise name-calling a long-time ago in the heat of political conflict. He is obviously the first to admit it. Other politicians, such as Rabin, have done the same. Even so, for the ostensibly right-wing Likud to use it as an October surprise against Smotrich and Ben-Gvir, who have been rising in the polls on their own merits, in order to once again siphon votes to the Likud from the Religious Zionist public, a population that Netanyahu only seems to really care about at election time; such an action against an ally, if done by a Likud surrogate, is totally unacceptable.

Let us hope that those who claimed on Twitter that the leak was planted by the sinking ship of Ayelet Shaked are wrong, because that, too, would be totally outside the pale, and a pitiful, if understandable, act of desperation.

The rise of Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit has been accomplished, not by dirty politics, but by the principled right-wing positions taken by its candidates. There is no wavering on the principles of Jewish pride and traditional Jewish education, nor is there weakness when it comes to restoring the vital “peace through strength” principle in responding to Israel’s enemies, whether on land or at sea. And yes, that includes not just Hamas and Hezbollah, but also the deceitful, conniving Palestinian Authority, which despite being avidly courted by the obsequious current defense minister, Benny Gantz, continues to fund terrorism with millions of shekels every month through its “pay to slay” program of payments to jailed and not yet captured terrorists.

In addition, as Ben-Gvir has rightly pointed out with great courage, the many Arab terrorists within Israel, as we have seen increasingly active in Jerusalem, Lod, Ramle, and elsewhere, need to be rooted out, and, if need be, deported, along with the many terrorists attacking Jews almost daily in Judea and Samaria.

Furthermore, Smotrich and his colleague, MK Simcha Rothman, have recently unveiled a serious, comprehensive plan to reform the legal system by establishing a true separation of powers, similar to the American system, thereby ending the current dictatorship of the self-selecting judicial branch, as epitomized by Israel’s Supreme Court. Only Smotrich and Ben-Gvir will lead the way on this.

It has become clear that only a strong Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit, as the third largest party, will be willing to consistently fight for the implementation of these and other right-wing principles. If, on the other hand, Gantz and Sa’ar’s Left- masquerading-as-Center party is larger, history has shown that Netanyahu will likely bring them into his coalition with top ministerial posts, and the right-wing principles will once again be abandoned.

Only a larger Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit (the Hebrew letter ט on the ballot) will finally pull Netanyahu firmly to the right and cause him to stand by his promises to form a true right-wing coalition.

David Rubin, former Mayor of Shiloh, is the author of seven books, including “Confronting Radicals: What America Can Learn from Israel”, and “Trump and the Jews”. 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 or at