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Naftali Bennett, the grandmother in the candy store

Stubborn Palestinians? Global isolation? Law breakers? Never you mind, dearie!

It’s no coincidence that Naftali Bennett is very popular among young, new voters and settlers in the territories. For people who either know no history or are entirely cut off from reality, he sounds great.

According to recent polls, his relatively new party (founded in 2008) may win as many as 13 seats in the elections, up from three in the current Knesset, and there is a lot of speculation as to the source of his success. Some may think it has to do with his record as having served in what is considered the IDF’s most elite unit – but Bibi Netanyahu (Likud-Beytenu), Avshalom Vilan (Meretz), and Yochanan Plessner (Kadima) served in the same unit. Others claim it has to do with the fact that he’s relatively good looking – but Yair Lapid, who also has a pretty face, is not expected to do nearly as well.

Having heard Bennett and his fellow party members, I think the answer is far more simple and straightforward: Bennett tells everyone just what they want to hear. He’s more like a grandmother taking her grandchildren to a candy store than a politician with even a modicum of responsibility.

What is Bennett’s solution to the problem of Israel’s control over 3.5 million Palestinians living in the territories? Offer 50,000 of them Israeli citizenship. And what if they refuse, as have virtually all the Palestinians living in East Jerusalem? And what about the other 3,450,000? Don’t bother him with the details – if someone wants to annex all the territories but ignore the existence of their residents, so be it.

What is Bennett”s solution to Israel’s international isolation? Is it possible that it has to do with our neglecting our international commitments, abandoning the “Road Map” agreed to under George Bush, ignoring the Saudi Peace Plan, or refusing to evacuate even the settlements that Israel itself considers illegal outposts? Not at all: according to Bennett, the solution is to improve Israel’s public relations.

And what about internal problems? The Ultra-Orthodox community behaves as if its neighborhoods were extra-territorial. There is essentially no law enforcement in the territories, as evidenced by countless attacks on civilians under the name of “Price Tag” attacks. But should that concern the Israeli public? Of course not, according to Bennett.  According to his party, what should be changed is not the law enforcement but the laws: the party platform claims there is an excess of intervention by the courts, to which he wants to put an end.

Bennett and his party avoid all of Israel’s real problems and offer in their stead platitudes with no anchor in the real world. Grandma Bennett will give us all the candy we want and someone else will have to deal with our cavities, nutrition, and our sugar addiction. Bennett’s just here to take us to the candy store.

About the Author
Dr Laura Wharton is a member of Jerusalem's City Council as a representative of Meretz and an adjunct lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the Hebrew University. Born in the U.S., she immigrated to Israel after receiving a B.A. in the Department of Government at Harvard University and then served a full term in the Israel Defense Forces. She subsequently completed a Master's degree and a Ph.D. at Hebrew University. She is a mother of two and has been living in Jerusalem for more than a decade.