Naftali Bennett is a fascinating individual. Not for the quality of his contributions − we’ve yet to hear him express an original idea or exceptional inference − but because he can be read like a book. He’s truly open − every psychologist’s dream. The inner world, the consequences, the lack of awareness: it’s all there. Because he put himself at the head of Habayit Hayehudi and led that party to an outstanding electoral victory, he can be examined as more than just a single case. Bennett is a symbol. To use a wide, unavoidable generalization, he is what religious Zionism looks and sounds like today, on both sides of the Green Line. Those same people represented moderateness and served as bridge before 1967, but since then have succumbed to the messianic hallucinations of the post-Zionist settlement camp.
- Bennett threatens to leave Netanyahu government over peace talks on '67 lines
- Lessons from the EU guidelines: Israel’s right-wingers suffer from learning difficulties
- The Jewish Brotherhood movement
Bennett, former Israel Defense Forces commando that he is, is at his best when shooting from the hip − you just need to press the right button. His frame of reference is always a military one. He and Sara Netanyahu “took a terrorism training course together” (a joke funny in and of itself, that a scared Bennett quickly backed down from). The Palestinian problem is like “shrapnel in the butt,” according to Bennett. This week, the economy and religious services minister said that the European Union’s boycott of the settlements is like an “economic terrorist attack.”
Set aside his lack of diplomatic manners. It’s clear that his childishness is embarrassing, stupid even, in light of the fact that his government position requires him to cooperate economically with the outside world. But it’s that same childishness that helps us understand his inner world.
What’s a terrorist attack? First, it’s unexpected. Bennett said just a few days ago that “no one in the world is concerned with the Palestinian problem.” It’s no wonder that he was surprised. He actually looked pretty stupid to the rest of the world. That explains his anger. Labeling (at this stage only planned, and limited) economic sanctions as a terrorist attack attests to his anger, but not only that. Second, a terrorist attack is defined as being carried out against innocent civilians.
According to Bennett-ology − a frame of reference into which the prime minister has also been drawn − any act aimed at halting the occupation and settlers’ camp is terror. There is, of course, the military terror against the settlements, the comprehensive definition of which even includes stone throwing by 5-year-olds.
Alongside the military terror, there is also “diplomatic terror,” “propaganda terror,” and even “soccer terror.” We experienced that last one after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with the president of FIFA. So, of course, it’s only logical that we should discuss “economic terror” as well.
Here is where Bennett’s consequentialism is expressed − perhaps his most fascinating quality. With the shrapnel comments about the Palestinians, it was clear to everyone else that the true shrapnel − or “pain in the ass,” in Bennett’s American mother tongue − is actually the settlement movement itself. It’s that same settlement movement that is the real terrorist attack − not just any attack, but a suicide bombing. The same post-Zionist messianic settler camp is aptly labeled as suicide bombing. An entire nation has succumbed to it, and knowingly serves it, even as it becomes abundantly clear that it is being led into the abyss.
There stand Bennett and his friends at the edge of the abyss, talking nonsense about terrorism and shrapnel, cajoling the nation to take just one more step, then one more. They cry a little bit on Tisha B’Av, marking the fall of the Temple. Sometimes they thump their chest and promise that “Masada will never fall again.” And when it does actually fall into the abyss, what then? Bennett will probably say it’s gravitational terror.