Understanding the Bennett Crises

“Bennett knows that he is going to become prime minister on the basis of travesty. He wasn’t elected. He exploited Netanyahu’s persecution.”

Photo: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90

There is something obviously wrong in the new emerging government with its two rotating prime ministers. The first will be Yamina’s Naftali Bennett representing only seven of the Knesset’s 120 seats. The second will be Yesh Atid’s Yair Lapid representing 17 seats of the 120.

This anomaly, where a leader of a small party can become a prime minister, is possible because the Israeli political system allows it. It Allows politicians with unmitigated ambition to use the political gridlock to their own advantage. Legal as it is, it doesn’t change the fact that it is undemocratic to allow a small party leader to lead the country. Adding to it that with the exception of Likud, Labor, Meretz and the Religious Zionism faction, all other parties, including Yamina and Yesh Atid, do not have internal primaries, which means they are no democratic parties striving to govern a democratic state. This constitutes one Bennett crisis, wherein an unpopular leader will lead the majority that didn’t vote for him and don’t like him.

The second Bennett crisis is Bennett himself, who promised his voters that he’d never allow Lapid to become prime minister. By opting for a left-leaning coalition, Bennett has bitterly disappointed at least half of those who voted for him, not to mention right-wingers who didn’t vote for him. According to polls, if elections are held again, Bennett will win only three seats, meaning he’ll fail to pass the electoral threshold.

Bennet has abandoned his election promises, which he signed on live television (Channel 20), stating that:

  1. I will not allow Yair Lapid to be a prime minister, not even in rotation.
  2. I will not form a government dependent on Mansour Abbas of the Islamic Movement.

On the left, a hunger-striking Israeli outside the home of Yamina no. 2 Ayelet Shaked.

These promises, which he apparently never meant to keep, left half of his voters and right-wingers as a whole bitterly disappointed, even betrayed by a party that promised to anchor Netanyahu to the Right.

One of those who expressed his bewilderment over Bennett was journalist Avishai Ben Haim, whose popularity, particularly among Mizrahi Jews, makes him a voice to be reckoned with. Ben Haim has popularized the notion of Ashkenazi hegemony, or what he calls the ability of “First Israel” to maintain control over the media, judicial system and academia, all of which in turn harbor a notoriously condescending attitude toward traditional “Second Israel.” Though many disagree with Ben Haim’s portrayal of racial divide in the Left-Right schism, they still agree with him on the issue of a minority elite forcing its agenda on the majority of Jews who are fundamentally Zionists and traditional.

On the day (May 30) Bennett announced his decision to join the Left bloc and becoming a prime minister, Ben Haim spoke with talk show host Sharon Gal. Excerpts from his conversation with Gal express how many right-wingers feel. “As far as the sense of humiliation and helplessness, and the feeling that something undemocratic and immorally was done, this day is on par with the [Gaza] disengagement.”

Ben Haim continued: “Something you have no way of stopping because the hegemony has decided what it wants. And it can do whatever it wants because it has unlimited power. It can’t do any wrong. It controls not only the judicial system. It controls the media through which it can tell the story the way it wants.”

The Bennett event “is of the same sort as the disengagement, meaning that foolish people, bad people, were looking at this event as a sort of relocation. They didn’t understand that giving up on Israeli land is not relocation. And they didn’t understand that the elite wanted to humiliate the settlers and educate them. Yair Lapid said then that this was the purpose of the disengagement.

“What we see now is a historic event where one of the greatest Jewish leaders of all times is being humiliated and dethroned. Netanyahu is a national symbol for countless Israeli Jews. He embodies the Jewish sentiment.

“Those who are awaiting his undemocratic demise are demonstrating a truly frightening immoral removal of a prime minister loved by the common folks by the hegemony, that after years of character assassination and persecution has succeeded to politically paralyze Netanyahu.

“What’s most frightening is that Bennett knows all of it. He knows that he is going to become a prime minister on the basis of travesty. He wasn’t elected. All he did was to use Netanyahu’s persecution (for his own gain). Bennett is taking advantage of the hegemony’s abominable act that crushed a prime minister. I see this as more deplorable than his election campaign lies.

“The campaign against Netanyahu is not about him. It is a campaign designed to suppress the national and Jewish feeling. It is part of a plan to advance post-Zionist, post-national and post-Jewish values, and Bennett is now taking part in it.”

Though one may be tempted to think that this is unjustified hyperbole, I’ll say again that Ben Haim is an authentic voice of countless Israelis, which means that Israel is heading toward unprecedented civil unrest that will not end in the desired unity promise by the new government.

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