Shulamit S. Magnus
Jewish historian

Hag sameah, Prime Minister Bennett, from a center-left voter

Naftali Bennett is not the person I voted for, nor would I in the future. But I respect him, and above all right now, am very grateful for his leadership and his staying the course about what this coalition is for and about.

That coalition is no one’s first choice, certainly not his. Bennett made plenty of mistakes– above all, not saying, as the right-wing Gideon Saar did, before the latest of Netanyahu’s serial elections, that there will be no making a government with Netanyahu, with anyone under serious criminal indictment. Saar’s clarity about that never wavered and that was a strength. One that has served him since. No defections from his party ranks.

The fact that Bennett failed to do that is what is landing him in such trouble now, because his own party did not get the message that the bottom line, aside from pursuing their right-wing agenda, was a functioning government, and zero tolerance for the use of government, of the franchise, of the voters and our lives, for the personal needs of a thrice-indicted, demagogic, cult-leader Prime Minister. If Bennett had made it clear to his own hevre that this was his bottom line, take it or leave it, the Silmans, and the Chiklis, and the Orbachs, would have jumped ship then and he could have picked others to run with him who would then not have undermined him from within his own party.

That showed a terrible failure of judgment and feeds everything Netanyahu says about him, though Netanyahu’s capacity for ugly, ad  hominem, puerile attacks seems as indiscriminate as it is limitless. Bennett did everything but lick Netanyahu’s boots to join a coalition with him, which goes to show what loyalty means to Netanyahu but then, what is there to expect from that quarter.

Ultimately, Netanyahu could not form a government because his buddies, the kahanists, the ones Netanyahu himself pulled out from under their rocks and brought back from the political herem they warrant (though they are welcome to go to synagogue!)– into the political ring, would not agree to have Raam, the party of Mansour Abbas– you know, who recognizes Israel as the Jewish state and fights for his Israeli Arab constituency on that basis– in the coalition. But Bennett stayed with that effort, backing Netanyahu to form a government, till hour 11:59, when he finally yielded to the heroic efforts of Yair Lapid to spare us another round of Netanyahu-elections. A lot of good that is doing Bennett now with his right-wing former supporters. He doesn’t even reference it.

But right now, as Prime Minister, Bennett is doing a remarkable job of staying the course with this so difficult coalition, and now, in particular, after the truly horrific few weeks of terrorists murdering people in the streets, is showing the calm, the control, the demonstrated leadership, and just the right words, that we badly need. He is someone who, however much I disagree with some of what he stands for, shows every sign of decency and true, not demagogic, manipulative, love of this country. For this, I am very grateful.

Hag kasher ve’sameah, adoni  rosh hamemshala.

About the Author
Shulamit S. Magnus Professor Emerita of Jewish Studies and History at Oberlin College. She is the author of four published books and numerous articles on Jewish modernity and the history of Jewish women, and winner of a National Jewish Book award and other prizes. She is a founder of women's group prayer at the Kotel and read Torah there in the first such service, in 1988. She is first-named plaintiff on a case before the Supreme Court of Israel asking enforcement of Jewish women's already-recognized right to read Torah at the Kotel, using scrolls held there, and she opposes the Kotel deal, which would criminalize women's group prayer at the Kotel. Her opinions have been published in the Forward, Tablet, EJewish Philanthropy, Moment, the Times of Israel, and the Jerusalem Post. She is currently at work on a book of scholarly advocacy about the history of agunot and how to free gunot and end iggun.
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