A McCarthyist in Israel's Education Ministry

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Naftali Bennett, leader of Habayit Hayehudi, at a right-wing rally in Rabin Square on March 15, 2015. Bennett is a key potential partner for Benjamin Netanyahu as he tries to build a coalition.Credit: Reuters

Habayit Hayehudi chairman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett has attacked Israeli foreign service personnel and questioned their loyalty to the state because of organizational genetics – “the Foreign Ministry’s DNA,” as he put it. The scientific proof: Alon Liel, who was director general of the ministry a decade and a half ago, and is now a prominent spokesman against a government in which Bennett is one of the key partners.

As Israel’s ambassador to South Africa in the 1990s, Liel became aware of Bantustan, the faux autonomy for blacks under apartheid rule. And it is Liel’s experience of a country that plummeted to the moral depths that is at the root of his struggle to end the Israeli occupation in any way possible. When he served in South Africa, Liel could not imagine – perhaps because of that defective DNA – that one day the Israeli government would feature a minister whose diplomatic proposal is a souped-up version of that same Bantustan.

Bennett entered politics as a representative of the younger generation and a new spirit. But as the years pass, it becomes ever clearer that Israel’s education minister is an extreme nationalist, who blames the failures to which this government is leading us on bad PR and fifth columnists. Everything is wonderful, the occupation and settlements have almost persuaded the world of Israel’s justness. But then along come the “informers” to sabotage efforts, including the appointment of Bennett’s former party colleague and settlement leader, Dani Dayan, as ambassador to Brazil.

According to Education Minister Bennett, he will take advantage of his cabinet position to change the DNA of principals and teachers, ban books that raise the possibility of relations between Jews and Arabs, make appointments to the Council for Higher Education and earmark budgets. His fellow faction member, Ayelet Shaked, will do likewise in the Justice Ministry, from the prosecution to the courts. If they are only given sufficient time, a new Jew will be created in these ministries, standing taller than ever.

Bennett has made a practice of attacking, McCarthy-like, anyone who does not agree with his right-wing, extremist policies. In his talk to students at the Peres Academic Center in Rehovot, where he verbally attacked Liel, he even dared equate the terrorists who killed a family of three in the Palestinian village of Duma to what he called the “extreme left.”

The fact that the education minister allows himself to compare those who burned a family to death and those who seek to save Israel from irreversibly deteriorating into outcast apartheid is proof of his unsuitability for the office he holds, and the inherent danger of his place in the government.

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