Opinion

Abandoning a Lasting Brand, Bennett Shows He's Aiming for the Prime Minister's Office

Even if Habayit Hayehudi disintegrates, it gave both departing ministers Bennett and Shaked a lot of experience in government – of Palestinians

Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked launch their new political party, Tel Aviv, Israel, December 29, 2018.
Corinna Kern/Reuters

Habayit Hayehudi, “The Jewish Home,” is a brand. Abandoning such a good brand for the sake of a boring name like Hayamin Hehadash, “The New Right,” shows how confident the skilled, calculating politicians Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked are in themselves, and that they’re shooting for the top, for the Prime Minister’s Office.

Their chances are great because as leaders of the party they just abandoned, they gained a lot of experience in government leadership – the government of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. It’s the longest extended Israeli experiment in dictamocracy: Those who can vote and determine the face of the government are Israel’s Jewish citizens. And that government also rules over those who can’t vote, the Palestinians.

The Jewish Home will remain a brand, because it unites the values of Jewish secular and messianic nationalism from the past. Regardless of what the parties are called, the Jewish Home – as a concept – will continue to control the lives of Palestinians and decide the means of bullying them.

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The party’s legacy, still flourishing despite being abandoned by Bennett and Shaked to deal alone with its debts, will not decline. On the contrary, its voice and influence will grow along with the growth in the number of parties competing for the votes of Land of Israel loyalists seeking cheap real estate and mountain air. Benny Gantz will also try to compete for the votes of those who consider moving to such settlements as Nili, Alei Zahav and Ariel. Not in order to warn them against committing a crime, but rather the opposite: Gantz will promise that he knew how to protect them and the resources they looted and will loot as election bribery for the past 51 years.

Habayit Hayehudi arose from a culture of election bribery, by which the governments led by Labor (in its various aliases) and then Likud promised and gave the Israeli Jews. When Shaked was still in kindergarten, governments were offering a winning combination of profitable pioneering, a pagan worship of stones and clumps of earth turned into villas bathed in greenery, and a certain socioeconomic upgrade for Mizrahim and Haredim. Law enforcement agencies ignored the violence committed by ideological settlers for dozens of years before Habayit Hayehudi’s Moti Yogev ever wished a bulldozer on the High Court of Justice. Thus, Habayit Hayehudi existed as a brand long before the actual product was conceived.

Contrary to right-wing propaganda, for 50 years the High Court was not on the side of the Palestinians, or of justice, and never blocked the process of their dispossession. It merely put up a few detours. Shaked and Co.’s successful, strategic war against the legal system was declared with the aim of getting rid of these detours; they have indeed been removed and the judges have allowed, for example, the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.

Even before the brand was created, orders and laws were issued to set the foundations for the planning apartheid in Jerusalem and the West Bank and the theft of Palestinian water. Even beforehand, the architects of the Civil Administration had designed the expanse of the West Bank including East Jerusalem, (where forgotten Palestinian enclaves are severed from each other), in the spirit of the visions of the founders of The Jewish Home.

These are settlers who were once only on the fringes of Israeli politics: graduates of Rehavam Ze’evi’s transfer party and promoters of its ideology, such as Benny Elon, Gush Emunim founders such as Uri Ariel, who has been calling for the expulsion of Bedouins from the vast area east to Jerusalem since the 1970s, and the founders of the Regavim organization to protect the Jewish Nation’s lands – which is nothing less than to expel Bedouin and other Palestinians from their land – such as Bezalel Smotrich.

Even if Habayit Hayehudi disintegrates as a lasting brand, it can take pride in its achievement. While it didn’t invent the “solution” of disregarding the Palestinians’ existence, it did guarantee its vigorous return to the Israeli mainstream.