She first appeared as a curiosity – a young and pretty secular woman from an upscale north Tel Aviv neighborhood, a fresh and well-educated Zionist who found a warm Jewish home — to borrow from her party’s name, Habayit Hayehudi. She doesn’t resemble extremist figures from the past like Meir Kahane and Moshe Levinger, or former MK Michael Ben-Ari. She’s much more attractive and elegant than the caricatures of crazed right-wingers with their bushy beards, skullcaps askew and Uzis dangling from their shoulders.
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Still, MK Ayelet Shaked's first term in the Knesset promises to be an opening round in a long career of bills aimed at annexing West Bank land, silencing leftist NGOs and entrenching Jewish supremacy. She's gradually finding her place in the pantheon of the extreme right that has taken over the country.
Her modus operandi is simple and effective, appealing to popular sentiment on the heels of a terrorist attack. She takes an aggressive stance and whips up mob sentiment, usually targeting minorities — Arabs or asylum seekers — depending on the mood.
In recent days, Shaked has posted several status updates on her Facebook page, linking the recent killing of 20-year-old Shelly Dadon, whose death has not yet been established as a nationalist crime, with Shaked’s bill to prevent the president from pardoning certain murderers. David Tsur, a Hatnuah MK who co-sponsored Shaked’s bill, said it was designed to prevent the release of all types of murderers, but the language declares that it was intended to prevent prisoner-release deals common during peace negotiations.
Later on, after the public security minister’s declaration that at this point there’s no way of knowing the motive for the murder, Shaked dropped the subject and instead attacked the ministers who opposed the proposal; for example, Yesh Atid’s Jacob Perry, who filed an appeal against it. She wrote that “today it has become clear that petty politics are more important than the blood of Israeli citizens” — a status update that was later edited and toned down.
Even if it turns out that Dadon was murdered for nationalist reasons, Shaked’s propaganda methods are frightening in their irresponsible violence. And they’re infuriating in appropriating the tragedy for political purposes.
“That’s how it is in war …. It worked and made headlines,” Shaked said when she made sure the photos of the Fogels’ bodies were published; the family, from the settlement of Itamar, had been murdered by terrorists. That’s how it is in war, according to Shaked. An elected official can whip up a mob frenzy to promote a bill that’s a “moral correction,” as Shaked put it.
Is someone who refuses to use a murder victim to incite a mob less upset by the murder of an innocent young woman? Is someone who opposes the destruction of peace talks indifferent to the death of Israeli citizens? Is Perry less interested than Shaked in having despicable murderers punished?
The answer to all these questions is no. Similarly, someone who rejected a policy that dooms minorities to second-class citizenship, or opposes the annexation of the West Bank for an intolerable price, is no less of a patriot or Zionist than Shaked, her party’s leader Naftali Bennett and their electorate.
Shaked lives in Tel Aviv’s upscale Bavli neighborhood and says her lifestyle is secular. But as a public figure she’s the hawkish envoy of the messianic settlement community, which has taken control of government institutions and the heart of the Israeli consensus. She’s the representative of an ideology unembarrassed by its racism.
“Do you hope that when he’s doing reserve duty your pilot husband will bomb the Arabs as hard as possible?” she was asked in an amusing interview when she was elected to the Knesset. “Yes,” she replied, laughing, and continued on her way.
The riddle of Shaked remains unsolved. Is it unbridled teenage-style enthusiasm, limited binary thinking that includes childish worship of one-dimensional nationalist ideas, or are we witnessing a sophisticated, mathematical talent for harnessing the soul of the nation for the benefit of the settlers? Whatever the case, the result is the same, and it’s dangerous.