Reuven Bobby Weinmann

Ben Gvir – The elephants in the room

I’m admittedly a little obsessed with Israeli-politics and a huge Itamar Ben-Gvir fan, so with the elections coming up, I often wind up having people tell me, “I wouldn’t/can’t vote for Ben-Gvir.” While those on the left would understandably never vote for him, most of the people I run into self-identify as right-wing. So let’s discuss some elephants in the room.

“I’m afraid of wasting my vote.” Ben-Gvir’s party, or more precisely the joint RZ/OY list, has been polling at 9-14 seats, making it the third most popular party. The polls are always wrong, but going from the third most popular party in the elections to not getting in? I wouldn’t put any money on it.

“We need to make sure Netanyahu has the numbers to be prime minister”. This is just a misunderstanding of how the Israeli parliamentary system works. The Religious Zionism/Otzma Yehudit joint list and Likud form a bloc. A vote for RZ/OY is a vote for Netanyahu to be Prime Minister but with an added advantage. In the past, Netanyahu has been reluctant to make right-wing moves, because of pressure from the US and the need to keep his coalitions together. A strong RZ/OY showing, leading to a coalition of Likud, RZ/OY, Shas and UTJ (the latter two being the Sephardic and Ashkenazi charedi parties, respectively), would mean that the pressure to keep Netanyahu’s coalition together would come from the right, with RZ/OY possibly bringing down the government if it doesn’t do things like approve new settlements. Shas’ and UTJ’s interests do not conflict with RZ/OY’s, and in fact, the hareidi parties’ electorates are becoming more nationalistic anyway. 

“He’s too extreme.” When you probe people on this, it usually comes down to one thing, “he wants to expel all the Arabs.” Ben-Gvir has said at every turn that he does not support expelling the Arabs. When protesters around him start to chant, “Death to the Arabs” – often in response to yet another terrorist attack – he loudly, and vociferously corrects them, “Death to terrorists, not Arabs!”

“Well,” my acquaintances correct themselves, “he knows he can’t do it, but he’d like to.” Assuming there is any validity to what fantasies a candidate may entertain in their thoughts, is this really any more radical than Lapid, who recently said, “We need to get the Palestinians out of our lives. What we have to do is build a high wall and get them out of our sight?” The dirty truth is that the left and right both really don’t want the Arabs, or at least they want as few as possible. It’s just that the left’s idea is to shrink the country to keep them out. That’s the point of two states. Why else was the expulsion of Jews in 2015 called “Disengagement”?

“All politicians are liars.” Normally I’d agree, but Ben-Gvir really does what he says he’ll do. He said he’d go to the Temple Mount, despite the threats from Hamas if he did, and in so doing, he knocked Hamas down a peg. He said he’d move his office to the Shimon Hatzadik / Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Jerusalem to force the police to protect the LEGAL homeowners from having their homes firebombed again, and he did, for weeks at a time. Even when the police wounded him in the head and he had to go to the hospital, he came back, and sure enough it worked!

“He has no experience making him suitable to be a minister. He never served in the army.” The irony here is overwhelming. First in that it ignores the fact that Ben-Gvir is a very successful lawyer, giving him the advantage that he knows what the law says, unlike most of the current Knesset, including the prime minister. Secondly, the current prime minister bravely served in the army… in broadcasting – protecting microphones everywhere, I presume. Lastly, there is the ultimate hypocrisy that Ben-Gvir tried to enlist in the army and was turned away because he was right-wing and was told it was a leftist army. Now they have the chutzpah to criticize his lack of army service?

Last but not least, “He had that picture”. For many years Itamar Ben-Gvir had a picture of Baruch Goldstein, who killed 29 Muslims in the Cave of the Patriarchs, in his house. He’s since removed it. It’s important to remember that Itamar had been close to Goldstein for many years before the massacre, but even if he still had it up, which he doesn’t, and even if he supported the massacre, which he doesn’t, he would still be far from the most controversial MK in an objective appraisal. One Labor MK wants to destroy Zichron Ya’akov. MK Ahmed Tibi worked for Yasser Arafat. Ofer Cassif assaults police officers. Defense Minister Gantz regularly invites PA President and Munich massacre mastermind Mahmoud Abbas to his home (if only it was just a matter of having his picture on the wall!). And let’s not forget that Ben Gurion and Rabin killed Jews on the Altalena because they threatened their power. But, yeah, Ben-Gvir HAD – past tense – a picture.

About the Author
Reuven (sometimes Bobby) came from a mixed Jewish-Christian background. He became ba'al teshuva (Jewishly observant) in his 20s with the intention of making aliyah, which didn't happen until his 40s. His daughter, Shani, also blogs and serves in the IDF as a medic. She was a lone soldier until her parents made aliyah in 2017.