The success of the Blue and White party in the April 9 election and the recent resurgence in the polls of Yisrael Beiteinu, after its refusal to yield on the Haredi enlistment law, is evidence that a substantial portion of the Israeli population is in favor of a political party right of center which is not subject to the dictates of the religious parties. The announced reason that Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett left secure positions in Jewish Home to start the New Right was to escape the ability of the Rabbis to dictate political positions. Although they very narrowly missed passing the election threshold with 138,598 votes, the New Right combined with Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut party with 118,031 votes, earned enough votes for six or seven Knesset seats.
That Blue and White, with bland leadership and no clear ideological underpinning except to unseat Benjamin Netanyahu, was able to earn 35 Knesset seats, shows that there is a large pool of voters available to a right of center party which has dynamic leadership, believes in democracy free of religious coercion, and is strong on National Defense. Blue and White voters have to be very disappointed with their party because it failed to unseat Netanyahu and has done nothing since the election. These voters are ripe for the picking.
The recent statements by Education Minister Rabbi Rafi Peretz that he supports gay conversion therapy and by the party’s Rabbi that only an orthodox man could lead a political party, statements clearly not held by middle Israel, show that Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett were right to leave Jewish Home to form their own party and be free of religious taint.
Now is the time for Yisrael Beiteinu, the New Right, and all of the other non-religious parties on the right, to agree to a technical merger to present a joint list in the next election. Clearly Ayelet Shaked, Naftali Bennett, and Avigdor Lieberman are each more popular and dynamic than all the leaders of Blue and White combined, and their political records are in accord with what the majority of the voters want. They do not have to campaign against Benjamin Netanyahu, who is still the most popular politician in Israel, but for strong national defense and against Blue and White, the left, and religious coercion.
With Labor and Meretz no longer relevant to most of the electorate, such a joint list could earn more Knesset seats in the upcoming election than the combined religious parties, and possibly more than Blue and White, and, thus, force the creation of a national unity government.
With all of the disruptions caused by a second election in one year, the indictments against Benjamin Netanyahu, the re-emergence of Ehud Barak with his Jeffrey Epstein association problems, now is the time for another major disruption like the one caused by Menachem Begin and Ariel Sharon in 1973, when they formed the Likud party, and won the elections in 1977.
Richard C. Lewis