Sheldon Kirshner

Hysterical Outbursts

With the end of Benjamin Netanyahu’s premiership fast approaching, several of his allies in Israel and abroad have engaged in what Prime Minister-designate Naftali Bennett has aptly described as “hysterical outbursts.”

Aryeh Deri, the leader of the Shas Party, has claimed that the incoming government will endanger Israel. Moshe Gafni, the head of the United Torah Judaism Party, has said that Bennett is a “wicked” person. Gafni’s colleague, Yaakov Litzman, has dismissed Netanyahu’s successors as radical left-wingers.

And American evangelical Christian preacher Mike Evans has blasted Bennett and his associates as “rabid dogs” obsessed with “power and revenge” and threatened to withdraw his support of Israel if Netanyahu is forced to step down as prime minister.

Taken together, these are the bleatings of desperate, ill-informed, self-serving and narrow-minded people who misrepresent reality and do not have Israel’s best interests at heart. One must wonder whether they live in an alternate universe with its own set of values and sources of information.

According to Deri, Bennett — an Orthodox Jew who heads the far-right Yamina Party — is blinded by personal ambition and intends to discard “everything that is important to the Jewish people.” As far as Deri is concerned, he will “destroy” the Sabbath, the Chief Rabbinate, the rules governing kashrut, and the conversion process. In his estimation, Bennett will uproot Judaism from the state and “tear the people of Israel asunder.”

This, of course, is pure, unadulterated nonsense.

Gafni has castigated Bennett and his partner, Yair Lapid of the centrist Yesh Atid Party, as “wicked” politicians who will “rot.” They are intent on establishing “an anti-religious government, a secular government,” and must be “excommunicated and ostracized” by their backers, he declared.

Gafni’s remarks are juvenile and shameless.

Litzman has categorized the next government as extreme left-wing and sneeringly labelled Bennett as a Reform Jew, the ultimate insult in ultra-Orthodox circles.

Litzman’s comments are ignorant and arrogant, devoid of any substance.

Their mean-spirited fusillades are motivated by sheer self-interest and selfishness. Neither Deri’s party, nor the parties to which Gafni and Litzman belong, will be part of the new coalition headed by Bennett and Lapid. For years, they propped up Netanyahu’s government in exchange for tangible benefits.

Now that Netanyahu is on the cusp of being replaced, they fear they will lose their perks and privileges. They also fear the new government will enact legislation on conversion, public transportation, Sabbath store openings and compulsory military service that will change the face of Israel to their dissatisfaction. And, as Bennett noted, they fear a commission of inquiry on the recent disaster on Mount Meron, which claimed the lives of 45 haredim in Israel’s worst civil disaster.

At a press conference in Jerusalem, Evans — a journalist and author who claims to represent tens of millions of American evangelical Christian supporters of Israel — falsely asserted that Israel’s new government will be composed of Arab anti-Zionists and Jewish post-Zionists who will “wave a white flag” and surrender to the forces of Islamic fundamentalism. He was presumably referring to two of Bennett’s allies: Mansour Abbas, the leader of Islamist Ra’am Party, and Nitzan Horowitz, the head of the left-of center Meretz Party.

“The evangelicals are going to stand with Bibi Netanyahu,” he said. “If (he) goes into the opposition, evangelicals — my 77 million people — will go into opposition with him.”

The implication seems clear. If Netanyahu is ousted, as widely expected, Evans may no longer support Israel. Asked by reporters to clarify his position, Evans said he would continue to stand behind Israel, but would not necessarily trust its government. Claiming that God had chosen Netanyahu to lead Israel, Evans insultingly called his successors “rabid dogs” who would be willing to “destroy the nation” in their quest to unseat him.

Evans denigrated Bennett as a “disgusting disappointment,” but later apologized for his inane comments and admitted that Bennett has been “a strong Zionist.”

Evans’ idiotic remarks are clearly beyond the pale. It is even questionable whether he’s in alignment with U.S. evangelical opinion. In all likelihood, he was speaking solely for himself and a handful of associates.

American evangelicals support Israel not because of their admiration of Netanyahu, but because Israel’s existence, regardless of its government, is intrinsic to their religious beliefs.

Evans evidently needs a refresher course in Israeli history.

About the Author
Sheldon Kirshner is a journalist in Toronto. He writes at his online journal,