Religious Zionism Doesn't Need Terror, It Has Taken Over the State

In Naftali Bennett’s criticism of the group that spawned the Duma killers, we could detect another message: Religious Zionism no longer needs this kind of terror.

Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett (center).
Avishag Shaar-Yashuv

Israel’s extreme right is currently preoccupied over whether the killing of the Dawabsheh family in the village of Duma, as well as other “price tag” actions, should be considered terror acts or ordinary crimes. Habayit Hayehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich argues that price tag operations aren’t terror attacks. “These events aren’t acts of war and their perpetrators aren’t the enemy. Jews, even when they sin, remain Jews,” he wrote.

His party’s leader, Naftali Bennett, considers these actions terror acts in every respect. “What is the definition of terrorism?” he has asked. “What distinguishes terror from ordinary crimes? Terror is the use of violence against civilians to further a political goal or, heaven forbid, overthrow the state.”

Many on the left felt that Bennett’s straightforward words – defining a clear boundary between religious Zionism and the killers in Duma – show that the gap between the left and the minister is smaller than it appears. They felt that Bennett, the high-tech guy, is ultimately a right-wing democrat, just like a good Republican in the United States.

When he realized what lurked at the bottom of the moral slope down which he and his friends sought to push the country, he sobered up in horror. Maybe now the entire “sane” right will come to its senses.

Some said here was the next prime minister. Sure: an Ashkenazi Jew, of course, rich and a racist who objects to the killing of babies. This is what prime ministers are made of.

When a common enemy is defined there is an illusion of an alliance. It’s important not to succumb to the illusion of a common denominator with Bennett only because finally his moral sensitivity threshold has been discovered. And unlike some people in his camp who celebrate the killing of the baby in Duma, he objects to the burning of babies.

After all, most Israelis, including Smotrich, object to the killing of babies. But most Israelis, Bennett at their head, did not object to the killing of nearly 500 children in last year’s Gaza war. Bennett has never had any problem when it’s the state that employs violence against civilians to further its political goals. Testimonies collected by Breaking the Silence reveal an entire system geared precisely to such goals.

When Bennett marks what’s illegitimate he defines both what’s not allowed and what he considers acceptable. What kind of alliance can there be with Bennett, who’s working to realize his dream of maximum territory, minimum  Arabs and a vision of upgraded apartheid? Israel’s political map can only form around one issue – domination over millions of Palestinians.

We should listen carefully to what Bennett is saying. In his clear opposition to the organization that spawned the killers in Duma we could detect another message to his people on the right: Religious Zionism no longer needs this kind of terror. The days when it was on the margins of Israeli society are gone. Whereas Jewish terrorists seek to “topple the structure of the state and build a new establishment,” as Bennett explained when he read out the terrorists’ writings, religious Zionism has already completed its takeover of state institutions.

“I’m the education minister and Ayelet Shaked is the justice minister .... We’re the state,” he reminded them. Religious Zionism’s worldview can now be instilled throughout the Jewish state’s democracy. A Jewish state is the end and the means, and these justify each other.

Jewish terror is directed at Palestinians but threatens religious Zionism and the legitimacy of the settlement enterprise. The iron hand Bennett seeks to employ isn’t just the assuming of the responsibility that comes with religious Zionism’s role in Israel’s sovereignty. It’s also an attempt to preserve and even enhance religious Zionism’s political power.

Those who fear religious Zionism’s power face a dilemma. Maybe this explains Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s subdued tone so far against Jewish terror.