Religious Ultranationalist Zionists Have Taken Over Israel

First they built the settlements, then they killed off the two-state solution, now they are free to turn to their next target.

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett (center).
Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett (center).Credit: Avishag Shaar-Yashuv
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

We can already announce the winner. Religious ultranationalism, which hides behind the worn-out name “religious Zionism,” has won, big time. With the appointment of the new police commissioner, head of the Mossad and the expected appointment of the attorney general, each belonging to their camp, they have captured additional outposts of decisive power. Now the entire top leadership of the legal system (the state prosecutor and Tel Aviv district prosecutor are theirs too) and part of the defense establishment is in their hands.

The inroads into the media have already been made. A religious IDF chief of staff, president of the Supreme Court and prime minister are only a matter of time. Everything seems coincidental, as the pieces of the puzzle are being filled in. It is packed with yeshiva graduates, wearing a kippa or not, and with a deep, resilient common denominator, despite their differences.

With victory comes the taste for more: Arrogance and the intoxication of power grow stronger. Yoaz Hendel, one of theirs, even without a kippa, laid out the new boundaries of this sector: “The secular Tel Avivian has become irrelevant,” he said, as reported in Yedioth Ahronoth on Friday. “The entire struggle between liberals and conservatives in Israeli society is being conducted today within religious Zionism. This is the new elite, and it is no longer interested in compromises.” Hendel is right. His shocking, outrageous words are rooted in the ground of reality. We must recognize it.

The right’s takeover of the debate began a long time ago. It may be that the seemingly minor program on Army Radio Hamila Ha’ahrona (The Last Word) gave the first word of this: Since its inception it has hosted an internal discussion of the right (except for the short-lived participation of Yossi Sarid). This week those debating on the show included Roni Bar-On, Menachem Horowitz and Irit Linur, three shades of right.

On “London and Kirschenbaum” this week, a weird and possibly even more relevant debate was broadcast: A “moderate” settler from Bat Ayin vs. an “extreme” settler from Yitzhar on the considered question of whether the messianic redemption should be brought forth slowly or ASAP. The “moderate,” Motti Karpel, refused to do reserve army duty in the past, and is one of the founders of the Hai Vekayam movement with the convicted terrorist Yehuda Etzion, and of “Manhigut Yehudit” (Jewish Leadership) with Moshe Feiglin.

The conversation was conducted in seriousness. It was completely clear that the question of the pace of the bringing of redemption is the central question facing society, and that the participants represent the mainstream. All other opinions are marginal and no longer relevant.

With negligible contributions to society, the economy, culture, science, literature and art; with a common denominator based mostly on messianic, religious, racist beliefs and a hatred of the other, especially the Arab; with a fictitious love of the land, isolation from the world and a folkloric religion, all wrapped in gooey kitsch; without practical vision; with a hollow spiritual leadership that bases its power on incitement to hatred and approval of bloodshed; at the focal points of violence and breeding grounds of corruption, and with insufferable arrogance this movement has exploited the vacuum, the horrible apathy that has spread in secular society, and climbed its way up to the high reaches of power.

They were the only ones willing to fight for a collective goal. They did not rule out any means. They extorted and exploited the weaknesses of government, the guilt feelings and confusion of the secular camp, and they won. They did so systematically and smartly: First they established the foundation of their existence, the settlement enterprise. After they achieved their goal – the killing off of any diplomatic agreement and destruction of the two-state solution – they were free to turn to their next target: taking control of the public debate in Israel on the road to changing its power structure, character and substance.

Now they are starting to pick the fruits of their victory, which are sweeter than honey and intoxicating. There is no longer anyone who can stop them. Those who went into hibernation will soon wake up to a new country. They can search for the guilty parties only among themselves.

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