Facing Israel’s Elections – 2

What has characterized the current elections with few exceptions is the lack of clarity regarding the political platforms of many of the competing parties.

Nearly all of the campaigns, particularly those appealing to the middle ground of Israel’s political spectrum, which accounts for close to 30% of the electorate, appear to be based upon personal appeal and charisma rather than upon content.

Few would question that the two rising stars in the current campaign have been Naftali Bennett of Habayit Hayehudi and Yair Lapid, who heads the Yesh Atid party. Neither of them has ever sat in the Knesset before or been a government minister and, yet, according to an opinion poll published in Ha’aretz last Friday, the two of them are likely to win 26 seats and comprise close to 22% of the next Knesset.

Both of them are young party leaders by Israeli political standards. Bennett was born in 1972 and Lapid in 1963. Bennett was elected head of Habayit Hayehudi just last November while Lapid established Yesh Atid less than a year ago.

The combined support for these two parties, which are a world apart from one another on many counts, is predicted to fall not far short of the anticipated vote for the joint Likud-Beintenu party list concocted by Netanyahu and Lieberman prior to the current election campaign.

That of itself is amazing and testifies to the level of dissatisfaction that many feel with much of Israel’s current political leadership. From Shaul Mofaz to Tzipi Livni to Avigdor Lieberman to Aryeh Deri to Shelly Yachimovich few are untarnished. Bennett and Lapid feel like a breath of fresh air.

Yesh Atid and Habayit Hayehudi are very different from one another, but what both of these parties have in common is a belief that all sections of Israeli society should share the burdens of defence and national service.

That of itself is a threat to both Shas and Yahadut HaTorah. It is, therefore, hardly surprising that Shas’ spiritual leader, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, referred to Habayit Hayehudi this past weekend as being “a house of goyim”. While Netanyahu may not use such language, his loathing for and fear of Naftali Bennett probably doesn’t fall far short.

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