Thursday, January 17, 2013

Naftali Bennett does Feiglin Lite

By Jason Gold

I have to say being in Israel around election time gives one an interesting perspective on Israeli politics. Perhaps the key feature here is that one does not vote for an individual as in the US. Here, one votes for a party with a pre-detemined leader and the party that captures the most votes forms the next government.

Because of the proliferation of parties like copulating rabbits, I've never seen so many say so little.  Catchy slogans, but very little substance except for two party leaders; Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu of the Likud and Naftali Bennett of the Likud.

Bibi can obviously run on his record. On the foreign policy front, he has been holding the line so far on giving up land to the Arabs (no, they are not "Palestinians").   He has also had some domestic success as keeping the economy on a relatively even keel, and increasing children services health care to name a few.  Of course his lack of execution on the Levy report, playing bait and switch with the settlers and not being trusted are definite negatives but still when he speaks, at least substantive things come out of his mouth.

Naftail Bennett is the flavor of the month. Successful, charismatic, articulate, he is indeed as someone dubbed him, "little Bibi with a kippah".  As Bibi's former chief of staff, the shoe fits, so wear it.  He has revived the Mafdal as Bayit Hayehudi and is attempting not to be just another sectoral religious Zionist settler party but is reaching out across the aisle to the secular Jews as well.

I like Bennett, I really do. We could use more like him. Except we could use more like him in the Likud and not in Bayit Hayehudi.  If you read Tuvia Brodie's brilliant blog post here, you will understand why it makes absolutely no difference how many seats Bennet gets and why, in all probability he will be absolutely impotent in the next government.

The other reason I like Bennett is that he clearly is a Moshe Feiglin fan. How do I know? Just listen to him. Most of his policies are all watered down versions of Feiglin policies to make him appeal more to the masses.  For example, the annexation of Yesha. Feiglin says and always said all of it. Bennet would like to do just area C and let the Arabs rule themselves in A & B but not to have a "state."  Got that? But Naftali, isn't that like being a little pregnant? You know full well that if you give them A/B, after a while they will want C and then you will have to go in anyway and clean them out because of all the bad things (rockets, bombs, etc) that they will do to get C.

How about the army refusing orders to evacuate Jews from their homes if Obama and the EU decide that's what they want? No way says Naftali, the soldiers should refuse those orders. But then, Naftali gets blowback from the press and establishment and suddenly it's no, soldiers should not refuse orders. Feiglin? Has always said, refuse.

Flip flopping is not a good thing.  It implies a lack of experience or worse, a lack of conviction, backbone, testosterone, take your pick.  I know Bennett is a good man and wants to help Israel and his heart is in the right place. But right now, he is not cut out for this. Just like Feiglin learned from mistakes over a 12 year period in the Likud but NEVER varied his message, so Bennett will have to learn and be able to take the heat for his convictions. Right now jury's out on him politically, and I have doubts whether  Bayit HaYehudi will succeed in the long run.  At the risk of dating myself Bennett reminds me of those old Miller Lite beer commercials.  The problem is in this case Bennett is Feiglin Lite and though he probably thinks that the ability to "taste great and be less filling" is a plus, in the playing-for-keeps game of Israeli politics, it's the substance that counts Naftali, not the taste.

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