Pinning Jell-O to the Wall

I happen to like words, a lot. But in the past few days the words in this campaign are beginning to cloud my mind.

Last week, I was sure I was going to vote for Naftali Bennett. Now I just don’t know.

First of all, he’s just not accessible. I like that he is “one of us” and that he’s running his campaign through social media. But his social media people aren’t answering questions put to Bennett by me and my friends.

The excuses my friends give me are:

  1. He’s too busy.
  2. He has too many thousands of supporters to answer every question put to him.
  3. My questions aren’t worthy of his response.

I Like Text

But I’m not seeing answers to my questions anywhere in the media and if my concerns aren’t worthy of a response, maybe I shouldn’t be voting for the guy. On the other hand, my Hebrew isn’t great and Bennett’s not putting a lot of stuff out there in English except for clips of interviews. Those are nice, but I like text.

Bennett’s parents are American, so I would expect to see him try to appeal to the Anglo community by offering a plethora of English content. But there has been almost no English content put out by his campaign. Not on Facebook and not on the party website.

Confession: I wrote and asked if they could use me as an English content writer. Predictably, I received no response.

No Response

The one thing I really like about Bibi is that he always serves up an English translation of everything he puts out on Facebook. That way, there’s no guesswork for an immigrant like me who never really got the hang of the Hebrew thing.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stands in front of the Old City walls in Jerusalem, Wednesday, December 19 (photo credit: Uri Lenz/Flash 90)

I was glad they finally put English subtitles to the clip with Bennett’s annexation plan. That should have helped me pin down what it is he means to do. But the fact is I’m more confused than ever.

I have several thoughtful friends who are planning to vote for Otzma L’Yisrael. They are telling me that Bennett’s annexation plan is just another thinly veiled land giveaway under a different name. And they are persuasive. As one friend put it: “I can’t support Bayit Yehudi’s platform of giving away Hevron, Bet Lechem, Schem, and more, in exchange for annexing [Area] C.”

That gave me pause for thought. ‘Is that what Bennett’s plan really means?’ I wondered, and felt more confused than ever.

I watched Bennett’s clip again, the one with the English subtitles, and tried to see if what my friend said was true. I watched the clip from start to finish and when I was done, I was no closer to understanding the sense of the words I had previously thought I had so clearly understood.

What does self-governance imply? Could we, for instance, continue to visit Joseph’s Tomb once a month under heavy IDF guard as we do now, once Bennett’s plan goes through? I have no clue.

Jews at prayer in Joseph’s Tomb in the West Bank city of Nablus during a previous visit as IDF soldiers stand guard (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

Last election, I voted for Ichud HaLeumi. I didn’t like that they did provocative stuff. But I agreed with the essence of their platform which is actually right-wing and not just purporting to be right wing. At least with THEM, I knew they would not support land giveaways, which is my central issue.

But I really am fed up with the provocations, which is why I really didn’t want to vote for Otzma L’Yisrael, this party’s latest incarnation. I don’t like this in-your-face burning of Palestinian flags. It doesn’t get us any closer to our goals. It’s immature. So I thought I’d give Bennett a chance. The problem is, as we get closer to the election, the picture of what it is he stands for, far from being clarified, has become a murky morass of words.

A little over a week ago, Bennett was in the news for saying he’d refuse orders to throw Jews out of their homes. After he got called on that statement by the Likud, he amended his statement and said he meant that as an individual, as a soldier, he would have begged off as a conscientious objector, but that the army as a whole must obey legal orders. In other words, he used words as a veil and after the fact, cleaned up the verbal mess.

Naftali Bennett in Jerusalem (photo credit: Raphael Ahren/Times of Israel)

Now we have the Bennett supporters saying, “That’s what he meant all along.”

They tell you to listen to what he actually said in the first place—as if this proves something—which it doesn’t.

The other side says exactly the same thing: “Watch what he said in the first place and you’ll see that’s exactly what he meant.”

Now it’s not only Bennett. We have Gideon Sa’ar saying that Bibi didn’t really mean what he said about a two-state solution in his 2009 Bar Ilan speech; that was just realpolitik rhetoric to avoid Israel’s further isolation. To which Bibi responds that he meant exactly what he said in 2009, it wasn’t just realpolitik and he really IS for a two-state solution.

So we get a lot of words, but it’s all a lot like pinning Jell-O to the wall.



About the Author
Varda Epstein is a blogger and Communications Writer for