Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Rising Star in Israeli Politics

A Rising Star in Israeli Politics

By Steven Plaut 

Without a doubt, the most exciting political development in Israel in decades has been the sudden and unexpected brilliant success of the Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party of Naftali Bennett.  The shy and straight-talking Bennett, who built a highly-successful high-tech entrepreneurial career, started his political career by taking over the splinter that was left out of the MAFDAL-National Religious Party.  That moldy rump party would have been lucky to get enough votes for two Knesset seats before  Bennett.   Within weeks he became the voice of Israelis who think that the Likud is too double-faced, cowardly, and demagogic.

A poll released today by the prestigious Israeli Geocartographia company says that, if the elections were held today (they are less than 3 weeks away), Bennett and his party would get 18 Knesset seats out of 120, probably making it the second largest party in the Knesset after the Likud, possibly beating out the Labor Party for the second-place parliamentary position.

Bennett has successfully attracted a wide range of both religious and secularist Israelis, people who want a party with a clear anti-Oslo platform, one that does not mumble about “peace partners” and a possible Palestinian state “under the right circumstances,” one that says what it means and means what it says.   It is attractive to those who want to vote for a party consisting of people who could actually get jobs if they were not in the parliament, ruling out most of the Likud.

The only other unambiguously anti-Oslo party with such a clear message is trapped in fringe insignificance because it is headed by an open Kahanist.  And in Israel today, being an open Kahanist makes you a pariah and unelectable.   Bennett speaks his mind clearly and openly, doing so even when it led to a temporary stumble in a political pothole a few days ago.

Bennett has both the Left and the Likud foaming at the mouth in hysteria.  The Likud has been engaging in hysterical mudslinging at Bennett.  But so far, it is like that country-western song:  Every time they throw dirt at him, they lose a little ground.  Bennett has been soaring and the Likud-Lieberman coalition has been imploding in the polls as a result of the Likud mudfest, which has included “anonymous” attack ads against Bennett in the media.  The fascist Left is even more threatened by Bennett’s success, so of course it is pulling out all stops to try to slander and bury him.

Consider the attack on Bennett’s party recently by Yediot Ahronot, the large Israeli daily (it has actually fallen to second place behind the freebie Israel Hayom).  Yediot has been trying to out-Haaretz even Haaretz in behaving like a lapdog of the Left.  In any case, in a recent edition Yediot claims to expose the political extremism of the top 15 people on the party slate of Bennett’s Bayit Yehudi party.  It promises readers it has uncovered sleaze on every one of them and that they are a bunch of far-Right zealots and extremists.  In each case, they display the worst quote they could find from that person’s public political record to discredit that person.

And just what did they find?  Of the top 15 people, they only found a single quote for two of them that seemingly makes them look “extreme,” and even those two do not look extreme in the quote Yediot uncovers.  Of all the others, the best Yediot can do is to “prove” that a candidate from the party (Rabbi Hillel Horowitz, number 13 on slate and Orit Struck, number 10) holds extremist right-wing views by writing under his picture that he holds extremist right-wing views, with no illustrations or citations.  A few slate members have been active in anti-Oslo NGOs.  Some even (gasp!!) opposed the eviction of the Jews from the Gaza Strip, which we now know accomplished nothing other than turning Gaza into Hamastan and a rocket launch base.   One other candidate had headed the Bnei Akiva movement for religious Zionist youth and, while there, he had sanctioned some separate activities for boys and girls, proving how extremist he is in the view of Yediot.   The only actual quotes Yediot could uncover was one from Rabbi Eli Bar-Dahan (number 4 on the slate) saying that gay marriage would be a threat to Jewish survival, and another from Uri Ariel (number 2 on slate) opposing conscription of homosexuals into the army.

That’s it.  That is the worst that Yediot could uncover.  Even if you disagree with those last two statements, almost everything else you will read about what the people on the slate say and think will leave you with a buzz, a feeling of bliss.  Bennett himself this week came out unambiguously in favor of reining in the imperious anti-democratic Israeli Supreme Court, and also expressed criticism of the political bias and lack of pluralism in the media.   He is the only serious political leader in Israel daring to make such statements.   Haaretz meanwhile is trying to paint Bennett as anti-women.

The only political tumble Bennett has experienced to date may not have even been a real tumble.  He was being interviewed for TV by the arrogant far-leftist TV journalist Nissim Mishal, and at one point Bennett said that, if he were ever to be given an order while serving in the army to evict a Jewish family from its home because of the government’s political agenda, he would personally refuse to carry out that order.  He could have ducked the question, but chose to answer it candidly.  The Get-Bennett SWAT Team then had a field day.  He is justifying mutiny and lawlessness, screamed the very same Haaretz editors who have always supported leftist attempts to organize mutiny and insurrection in the army, praising those leftist campaigns as infinitely moral.  Others compared the “right-wing insurrection” of Bennett to the long track record of left-wing moonbats calling for insurrections among soldiers.

Now here is not the place for a detailed exploration of the moral issue of conscientious objection and refusal to carry out immoral orders given to soldiers.  I will just say that, in general, such things make me uncomfortable.  There are appropriate places for taking a moral stand and expressing political opinions, but politicizing the army is way out of bounds.  Having said that, I also note that Bennett just said that he personally would refuse the order and would then man up to any personal legal consequences from that refusal.  (He later retracted the whole statement, by the way.)  He did not call upon other soldiers to refuse to obey orders, something the Tenured Left does several times a day.  And his reluctance to carry out such an order was based on the fact that he is pro-Israel, while the leftists organizing mutiny do so because they are anti-Israel.

Ultimately, the incident did not harm Bennett’s campaign and may well have helped it.  He came across as a straight-shooter, a non-politician who does not mince words and is not afraid to answer honestly what he thinks, a Jimmy-Stewart Mister Smith headed for the Knesset Hill.  A pro career politician would have ducked the question in the interview and said something like “I would have to ponder the situation,” or “It would all depend” or “I did not have sex with that Lewinsky woman.”   Bennett’s shy candor is endearing and refreshing.

And if the trend continues, he could end up with 25 Knesset seats, maybe even out-polling Netanyahu and the Likud.