For decades, religious-Zionist voters in Israel had a clear choice on election Day.
Small splinter parties came and went, but it was clear that the National Religious Party, Mafdal, served the needs of religious Zionists in Israel. The Mafdal was officially affiliated with Mizrachi, which represents and unites religious Zionists around the world.
After years of political infighting over the past decade, in which parties came and went, ran in different formations and repeatedly changed their names, there is once again a clear, central address for religious-Zionist voters in Israel: the Religious Zionist Party, led by MK Bezalel Smotrich.
Smotrich is a man of integrity, truth and consistency. That cannot be taken for granted nowadays, after other religious Zionists in politics misled right-wing voters.
While those politicians compromised their values for unholy political bonds, Smotrich held true to the religious-Zionist ideals of the Land of Israel for the people of Israel according to the Torah of Israel. He deserves credit for proving he can be trusted to reject attempts to entice him and give up on what religious Zionists believe in.
Let’s start with the Land of Israel. Smotrich and his candidates are fully committed to building everywhere in Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of the Jewish people. They have properly represented their constituency in Judea and Samaria, including residents of younger communities (that some call outposts), which need the government’s support to overcome their challenges, succeed and thrive.
Smotrich lives in Kedumim in Samaria with his wife and seven children. He co-founded Regavim, an organization that monitors and pursues legal action in the court system against illegal construction by Palestinians, Bedouin, and other Arabs.
“After many years, the time has come for the Right to govern for real,” Smotrich says.
The Religious Zionist Party list includes other veteran residents of Judea and Samaria, including veteran Hebron activist Orit Struck and Simcha Rothman, who lives in Pnei Kedem in Gush Etzion and whose wife was raised in the largely Anglophone Neveh Aliza neighborhood of Karnei Shomron.
Next comes the people of Israel. Smotrich has plans for representing English-speaking immigrants to Israel and encouraging aliyah from around the world.
He recently visited religious-Zionist leaders in London and reached out to the directors of yeshiva programs for overseas students in Israel. He also took a tour of Jewish communities in the US as part of a delegation of MKs sponsored by the Jewish Agency and the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA) that he found especially eye-opening.
“We need to maintain a dialogue with North American Jewish communities because we are a Jewish state that is the home of the entire Jewish people,” Smotrich told the World Mizrachi website in an interview. “This does not mean there are no conflicts, and this does not mean there are no disputes. There are many things I disagree about with Reform and Conservative Jewry. But I understand that we are brothers. We need to speak and have a dialogue and look for common ground.”
Smotrich said he maintained a connection with the leadership of the JFNA because he understands that many steps taken in Israel affect what happens overseas. In that interview, he also praised immigrants to Israel from English-speaking countries.
“This important community, which made aliyah and left behind in the US a good life, family, a livelihood and a good environment, cares about the State of Israel and the people of Israel more than about its own interests,” he said. “The Anglo-Saxon community knows what Zionism is and knows what it means to pay a price for its values.”
Both Rothman and Religious Zionist Party candidate Ohad Tal have vast experience working with religious Zionists around the world. Tal was an emissary in the Netherlands, worked at Israel Mizrachi and was the director-general of World Bnei Akiva.
Finally, for the Torah of Israel, Smotrich is the son of a respected religious-Zionist rabbi and attended the Mercaz Harav, Yashlatz, and Kedumim yeshivot. He spoke out against controversial plans for conversion and kosher certification in the last government and would prevent their advancement in the next one that he would join.
FOR THE Religious Zionist Party to play a strong role in a government formed by Benjamin Netanyahu, it would need to be as large as possible. If not, Netanyahu will go in other directions, as he has in the past.
In an article published in The Jerusalem Post in February, I wrote that there has never been a better time for Mizrachi to take time off from Israeli politics.
“While the prime minister may arguably be one of us, he came to power in a questionable manner, and he is taking steps that have definitely divided religious Zionists,” I wrote about Naftali Bennett. “This is the time when it is best for Mizrachi to speak in a unifying voice for religious Zionists around the world and temporarily remain above the fray. Soon enough, Mizrachi will return to playing an official, formal role in Israeli politics, as it has for decades, and as it should, in order to remain relevant and help provide Israel with a better future.”
Now that Bennett is no longer in politics, that “soon enough” has come. Religious Zionists around the world can come back to taking a significant part in Israeli politics, as they always have.
I believe that supporting Smotrich and the Religious Zionist Party is the right way to do it.