The announcement that Israel is once again going to new elections, at great cost to the national economy, has hardly been greeted with cheers by Israelis across the political spectrum. The notable exception has been former Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, who apparently saw his coalition battle with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as an opportunity to trumpet his brand of avowedly secular nationalism for political gain.
That may or may not prove to have been a wise maneuver, but now that new elections are on the way, there are interesting variations of musical chairs being played, as parties on the Left and the Right try to merge for political gain. This includes the much-weakened Labor, which is trying to merge, either into the left-of-center Blue and White or the far-left Meretz. The small centrist Kulanu has already merged with Netanyahu’s right-of-center Likud. The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) UTJ and Shas are stable as is, and get their votes from different groups, so have little motivation to do any merging at this time.
What remains very much in flux are the various shades of the religious Zionist public to the right of Likud, with their peculiar propensity to divide themselves into small parties, sometimes with exaggerated egos that seem to take precedence over the national interest.
Despite the polls that indicate a strong desire for unity among those voters, and despite the polls that always show the increased electoral strength that comes from combining forces, a complete unity has remained elusive.
Until now, that is. It has been reported that Education Minister Naftali Bennett is working overtime to achieve full unity on the right. The goal is to ensure that all parties to the right of Netanyahu get their people in, including the dominant URP (Union of Right-Wing Parties) led by Rabbi Rafi Peretz and MK Betzalel Smotrich, along with Bennett and Ayelet Shaked’s New Right, which didn’t quite pass the threshold last time, and also aiming to encompass Moshe Feiglin’s even smaller party.
This effort is a praiseworthy undertaking that deserves the blessing of the rabbis, political leaders, and the public. There are also reports that efforts are being made to reach out to Itamar Ben-Gvir of the further-right Otzma Yehudit party, which possesses a solid block of supporters and activists and should receive a respectable placing on whatever united list emerges.
This is also a call to the rabbis. The minor differences among some rabbis should not allow division to take root. Your spiritual leadership and guidance are needed to achieve full unity by bringing the politicians together. Send a loud and clear message of unity from the leading rabbis of the various religious Zionist streams and the politicians will follow.
G-d has created an opportunity that should not be missed. Now is the time for unity.
Reprinted with author’s permission from Israel National News