What Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked did in their daring maneuver was a must for the future of the entire national camp. Benjamin Netanyahu’s criminal investigations prevent many members of both the religious and the nonreligious right from continuing to vote Likud. Now they have a new place to go to — on the condition, of course, that they are persuaded that Hayamin Hehadash is a stable, honest and trustworthy address.
Many of Bennett and Shaked’s potential voters fear that the new party is temporary, meant as a stepping stone to the next goal: Taking over Likud, the way they took control of (and abandoned) Habayit Hayehudi.
In poll of self-described religious Zionists conducted by the Maagar Mochot research institute on behalf of the B’Sheva weekly, 16.2 percent of respondents said they intended to vote for Hayamin Hehadash, while 14.2 percent remained loyal to Habayit Hayehudi (22.6 percent will vote Likud and the remainder for the many splinters of the right such as Eli Yishai and Otzma Leyisrael).
In another, particularly interesting question, respondents were asked to rank, from 1 to 10, their trust in the party for which they planned to vote. Trust in Habayit Hayehudi (7.3) was nearly double that in Hayamin Hehadash (3.9).
Netanyahu and members of his inner circle accuse the legal system of the personal persecution level of the prime minister, “in the service of the left.” For many of those who are currently giving Likud around 30 Knesset seats in the opinion polls, these messages — that “there is nothing and there was nothing” and it’s just the malicious legal system that is trying to overthrow the government — are catchy and persuasive.
If Hayamin Hehadash really wants to be “hadash” (new), it must take a stand against this trend. This will make it unique, first of all from a moral aspect. The party can prove that activist Zionism, belief in the sole right of the Jewish people to rule, in justice and law, over all of the Land of Israel that is currently under Israeli rule, is not only just and possible — it is crucial.
The vestiges of the glorious Beitar movement believe and are convinced of this, together with many who were raised in the Labor Zionist movement, such as the historic Mapai — certainly Ahdut Ha’avoda, the party of the United Kibbutz Movement, the most activist party in the Zionist movement. About 90 years ago, it raised the banner of aspiring to expand to Gilead, Houran and Bashan. Many members of the second, third and fourth generations of these frameworks voted for Likud as their default. They can no longer do this.
In addition to the secular and traditional-Jewish pool of voters who seek a genuine, honest right-wing home is a second pool, also large, whose yearning for Hayamin Hehadash, which unites religious and secular Jews, makes it their first choice: the “knitted kippa” religious Zionists.
A large part of this wing is disappointed with Habayit Hayehudi. From their perspective, what was supposed to be the home of all Land of Israel loyalists focused most of its activity — as in the days of the National Religious Party — on seeing to the economic preservation, with all the ideological and moral costs involved, of its many institutions, including the superfluous ones. In order to receive funding, it also made peace with Netanyahu’s political caprices, such as halting construction in Jerusalem (too).
One of the most important challenges facing Bennett and Shaked is to prove their loyalty to an ideology and above all to a framework. In contrast to Likud voters, for whom the party and Netanyahu are (almost) the same thing; and in contrast to the more right-wing members of the ultra-Orthodox Zionist community — most of whom plan to vote for Habayit Hayehudi, as ordered by their rabbis — the potential supporters of Hayamin Hehadash are completely independent voters. Bennett and Shaked’s test of integrity is thus a major factor in determining their personal and political future.
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