As an anglo religious Zionist I want to share with you why I am voting for Zehut and not for any of the run-of-the-mill religious right-wing parties. It is not that I disagree with the values of those parties or that I don’t identify with their leaders. But after (only) two decades of following Israeli politics, I am dissatisfied with their ambitions. I don’t believe in small sectorial religious parties that do not aspire to lead the country.
A party whose highest aspiration is to be Minister of Education is not a party that can truly represent the hardline security and diplomatic policies the typical right-wing Israeli identifies with. We have seen time and again that such small parties have limited influence when it comes to deciding major policy when it comes to security and foreign relations. That is why I will no longer vote for Bayit Yehudi, National Union, or in their current form: The Union of Right-Wing Parties.
The same is true for parties which either take an extreme religious standpoint or submit to the guidance and political whims of various Orthodox Rabbi advisors. Even if those party’s leaders desire to become Prime Minister or Minister of Defense, they will never grow large enough to do so because they push away other right-wing hawks who happen to not be Orthodox. That is why I would not vote for Otzma Yehudit.
I will also not vote for Likud, who espouses right-wing values and has some right-wing candidates, but time and again has failed to implement those policies. Why is it that Benyamin Netanyahu only announces his support for Jewish sovereignty in Judea and Samaria and his objection to any form of a Palestinian state in the weeks before an election? Why is it that the Likud-led government bows to the wishes of the courts when it comes to destroying Jewish settlements but does not do the same when it comes to destroying illegal bedouin villages? And what is with those payments to Hamas?? Can anyone tell me what PM Netanyahu’s strategic vision is when it comes to Hamas and the Palestinians? My understanding is that it is to put out fires and stick to the status-quo for one hundred years until the Arabs give up. Umm, sorry but it’s already been one hundred years of conflict and that’s kind of racist: we waited 2,000 years, why should we think they won’t have patience for a few hundred? In short, Likud is a lot of talk and little substance.
As for the New Right, while Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked correctly understood what I described above – the need for a “big tent” truly right-wing party – they failed to realize that Zehut IS that party. Either they did not take Moshe Feiglin and Zehut seriously or they thought so highly of themselves, that rather than joining Zehut they started yet another “Likud satellite” party. By the time they started the New Right, Zehut – which was founded some 3 years earlier – had already written a 340 page detailed platform and had Israel’s first-ever open primaries. Did they not have enough respect for the Israeli voter that they thought people could not tell the difference between a hastily written platform and one that was worked on by teams of experts for years? And can someone please explain to me what is the difference between Naftali Bennett’s Palestinian Autonomy in Area’s A & B and Netanyahu’s “State-minus”? Sorry, one Hamas state is bad enough.
I will vote for Zehut because they have the most detailed plan for Israel’s future. I may not agree or be familiar with 100% of their plans, but I believe in Zehut’s Peace Plan (a one state solution). It has never been seriously attempted and is a much better plan than the current insanity (at least according to Einstein). I also believe in Zehut’s solution for the housing crisis. It is time the Israel Lands Authority stops profiteering on the backs of Israel’s young families. I also believe in Zehut’s plans for a more free economy and destroying the monopolies and corruption which are rampant in Israeli markets. I am not an expert on education, but I would like to see Zehut’s plans for the voucher system be seriously considered. I think it will bring excellence into education and increase the salaries for good teachers who deserve to be paid more. I also believe the Ministry of Education, like so many other government organizations can be more efficient.
I also support Zehut’s ideas for separation of religion and state. Isn’t it funny how the secular Zehut antagonists say Zehut is for a halachik (theocratic) state and the religious Zehut antagonists says Zehut is for a secular state? The reason is because Zehut seems to have found the perfect balance to remove religion as one of the biggest dividers in Israeli society. On the one hand, they say the state should have no say in the religious life of private citizens BUT Israel being a Jewish state, public institutions of the state will continue to honor our traditions including Shabbat, Holidays, and Kashrut. Anyone who has secular friends or colleagues knows how the issue of “religious coercion” drives secular Jews away from our traditions. Further, anyone familiar with our faith knows that G-d does not want us to observe his commandments because the state will fine us if we don’t. We can only truly serve G-d if we are doing so from a position of liberty, of free-will.
Many of my dati-leumi neighbors cannot fathom voting for a party other than the many little religious-right-wing parties. They are abhorred that Zehut candidate #18 – a stand-up comedian – released a video some years ago calling for Israelis to think-twice before circumcising their sons. But I think it’s beautiful that such an individual can find a home in a party whose name means Jewish Identity, whose leader Moshe Feiglin is a kippa-wearing Har-Habayit activist, and whose #2 candidate Rav Haim Amsalem is an ex-shas chareidi. I, along with a few thousand other supporters, attended the big Zehut election event in Tel Aviv port’s Hangar 11. I saw for myself that every type of Israeli Jew was represented in the crowd: religious, secular, chareidi, young, old, hippy, businessmen, men, women – you name it! It was electrifying and it was refreshing. Am Yisrael Chai!!
That (and more) is why this Tuesday, along with hundreds of thousands of other Israelis, I will be voting the letter Zayin for Zehut.