Ophir Falk

Bennett and Co. are the greatest threat to Zionism since Oslo

Like Rabin before him, Israel’s first religious prime minister has reneged on core security commitments, all the while receiving far too much applause from the right
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) talks with Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamic Ra'am party, during a special session to vote on the new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (L) talks with Mansour Abbas, head of the Islamic Ra'am party, during a special session to vote on the new government at the Knesset in Jerusalem, on June 13, 2021. (EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP)

At this time of year, for 26 years since the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, Israelis are reminded of the slain premier’s greatness. Media outlets and left-wing politicians provide warm accounts of Rabin’s valor in Israel’s War of Independence of 1948, his leadership in the 1967 Six-Day War, and his stewardship in the 1976 Entebbe rescue. We are seldom reminded of less flattering truths.

Thirteen days before the 1992 elections, candidate Rabin said: “It’s inconceivable that even in times of peace we would descend from the Golan Heights. Anyone who considers descending from the Heights will be irresponsibly abandoning Israel’s security.” But immediately after entering office, Rabin tried to cut a deal with Hafez Assad, the Syrian dictator, in which Israel would cede the entire Golan Heights. Luckily, Assad wanted more.

Rabin also pursued peace with Yasser Arafat and the PLO after he had declared during the campaign never to recognize or negotiate with these murderers.

The left’s yearning for peace at any cost legitimized these inexplicable campaign lies. The lies led to political corruption with parliament members being bought out for votes and civilians being blown up in buses.

Rabin portrayed those who opposed Oslo as “enemies of peace” and nothing more than “propellers” blowing wind in the face of precious peace. Rabin received international acclaim and the Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accords, while the 1,500 Israeli civilians who were killed by Palestinian terrorists were dismissed as the “price of peace.”

Naftali Bennett is no Rabin, but his campaign deceptions are just as dangerous.

Almost thirty years after the 1992 campaign deceptions, Bennett has become the 2021 Oslo Accords of the religious factions who still support this devious government.

The religious right’s yearning for widespread public acceptance and an honorable place in “mainstream Israel” is legitimizing Bennett’s lies and deception. Makor Rishon, a religious daily newspaper, seems to be making it a priority, with its pampering coverage of Bennett’s every move.

On the eve of the most recent elections, Bennett declared that it is undemocratic to appoint a prime minister who only has 10 mandates. He has six. Bennett also signed a binding document on national television that stipulated that under no circumstances would he sit in a government with either the Islamist Ra’am party or the far-left Meretz party because he considered them anti and post-Zionists. Bennett added, “I won’t allow Yair Lapid to be prime minister, including in a rotation.”

Now we know that this is exactly what Bennett planned all along. And when the opportunity availed itself, the ambitious faux right-wing face of modern Israel put his plan in motion.

Exacerbating this surreal situation, and despite pledging to the contrary before the elections, Bennett’s government is now legislating a bill that would, in effect, prevent the head of the opposition from running for elections. A party leader who can’t cross the electoral threshold can be appointed prime minister, while the head of a 36-mandate party can not.

Such a law would have been considered science fiction a few months ago.

Since this hodgepodged government was formed, it has accepted the inevitability of an Iranian nuclear deal and has brought the Palestinian process back to center stage. Leading ministers pay visits to PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas despite his unwavering insistence on paying terrorists who murdered Israeli civilians. Shockingly, last week we learned that there may also be Hamas financiers within the coalition who facilitate government funding to Palestinian NGOs that pay Hamas families.

Nevertheless, there are those who still romance Israel’s first religious prime minister who, ironically, would not be wearing a kippa had Rabin not been assassinated. Bennett started wearing a kippa, he recently said, as a sign of solidarity against the vicious attacks on religious Zionists after the ill-fated night in November 2005 when Rabin was murdered.

Many in the religious right are “optimistic” and “hope for good things” to happen after convincing themselves of the importance of having a prime minister who is photographed putting on tefillin, and who ostensibly observes the Shabbat. Everything else has become secondary. Even the chaotically mismanaged COVID crisis, culminating in the needless loss of more than 1,500 Israelis, is now being described by prominent religious reporters as a great success.

A kippa-wearing and mitzvah-keeping prime minister might be a precedence of significance, but the Bennett-Lapid government is also the first government in Israel with key members who oppose the tenets of Zionism, namely that the State of Israel is a Jewish state that serves as the homeland for the Jewish people.

Bennett’s band presents the greatest threat to Zionism since Oslo. Perhaps even more so. With the budget vote this week, a tripwire event that could set the tone for the coalition’s collapse, the religious right must unequivocally oppose Bennett and his morally bankrupt government.

About the Author
Ophir Falk is the author of Targeted Killings, Law and Counter-Terrorism Effectiveness, a research fellow at the International Counterterrorism Institute (ICT), and a founder of Acumen Risk, Ltd. The opinions expressed here are his own.
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