Israeli Elections: Unite the Torah Nationalists Now!
by Ariel Natan Pasko
A few weeks ago, I congratulated Bezalel Smotrich on his victory over Uri Ariel for leadership of the National Union party, and spoke with him about the historic opportunity that had opened up, after Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked left the Jewish Home party, which National Union had run together with, in the last elections. I emphasized that Bennett and Shaked’s derech – direction, wasn’t “our way.” And now, that they’re out of the leadership positions, how important it is that the religious right, the Torah nationalists of all the small parties, unite into one bloc, for the sake of the People, Torah, and Land of Israel, to save otherwise potentially lost seats, in the upcoming elections. He agreed, and although I’m sure he was already thinking about it, its important he heard from the grassroots, what they want.
That means, the Jewish Home party, Smotrich’s National Union, former MK Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party, former Shas chairman and minister, Eli Yishai’s Haredi nationalist Yachad party, and Otzma Yehudit, led by former MK Michael Ben-Ari must run together, for the sake of the country.
Rabbi Zalman Melamed, head of the Beit El Yeshiva and one of the most prominent rabbis in the religious Zionist community, recently said the same thing, calling on four of the right-wing and national-religious parties, Jewish Home, National Union, Yahad, and Otzma Yehudit to run on a joint ticket.
According to a recent internal poll conducted by the Ma’agar Mochot Institute, should they all run together, a joint ticket would net a total of at least 12 seats, boosting them past the New Right of Bennett and Shaked, and making them Likud’s largest potential coalition partner on the right.
Contrast that with another poll conducted by Ma’agar Mochot recently, on behalf of Israel Hayom and i24NEWS, which shows that if no new alliances are formed, it could cost the right-wing and religious bloc as many as 17 mandates, probably giving the election to the left.
Such a united front of Torah Nationalists, might even pull some of the more nationalistic Haredi vote away from Shas and United Torah Judaism. In a recent poll conducted by Dialcom, on behalf of the Kav Itonut chain of local newspapers, 20.1% said they planned to vote for one of the non-haredi parties.
At the end of last week, Jewish Home and National Union announced they would run on a joint list. Rabbi Rafi Peretz (JH) Bezalel Smotrich (NU) later appeared together on Channel 12’s “Meet the Israeli Press.” When asked whether the JH-NU party would unite with Otzma Yehudit, Smotrich said, “We will examine every possible option of unity, with all of the Religious Zionist [parties] and in the entire right-wing camp.” And Rabbi Peretz added, “I’ll say it clearly: Religious Zionism is a national movement which believes in a Jewish and democratic State of Israel. Whoever is our natural partner – that’s great. Bezalel and I will sit and think together about this issue in the coming days.”
They better think fast because the deadline to submit party lists is coming quickly on February 21.
The travesty of the Torah Nationalists, the Likud, and the Right more generally, since 1992, has been lack of vision, direction, and disunity, leading to the Oslo Accords, the Gaza Disengagement, and untold suffering.
After it was announced that Jewish Home and National Union would re-unite, even the Likud party was happy, “We welcome the agreement between the Jewish Home and the National Union and call on them to unite with additional forces to ensure the victory of the right-wing bloc in the elections.”
Also the Samaria Regional Council Head, Yossi Dagan, while praising Jewish Home and National Union for uniting, warned that the right still needs the list to include both Otzma Yehudit as well as Eli Yishai’s party. “The entire public is happy and praising the unity between the Jewish Home and National Union parties, but we have no time to debate or to hold long negotiations with the other right-wing parties regarding negotiations. Right now we need unity between all the right-wing parties. The one who prevents such unity will be responsible for the fate of all of the settlements.”
Dagan continued, “Ideological purity or concerns about placement on the party’s list, may give control to the left. Considerations regarding chairs do not take priority over saving Israel’s settlements. I want to say clearly: A leftist government and a second Oslo may be just around the corner. Ending up with a leftist government because too many right-wing parties did not pass the electoral threshold is not as far-off a possibility as it seems.”
The next step in solving the election puzzle, to prevent the Left from returning to power, after all the Torah nationalist parties unite into a bloc, ideally would be Likud, Bennett’s New Right, and Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu, uniting also into a bloc.
So that, just as the more observant part of the Religious Zionist community need vote for one united bloc and no votes will be wasted; so too, the secular nationalist, traditional and less observant elements of the religious Zionist community, will be able to vote for one bloc and not waste any votes.
It’s time for all the big egos to get out of the way and let leadership and statesmanship enter.
It’s time to unite the Torah Nationalists into one bloc for the upcoming elections!
Ariel Natan Pasko, an independent analyst and consultant, has a Master’s Degree specializing in International Relations, Political Economy & Policy Analysis. His articles appear regularly on numerous news/views and think-tank websites and in newspapers. His latest articles can also be read on his archive: The Think Tank by Ariel Natan Pasko. (c) 2019/5779 Pasko