Wednesday September 17, 2014
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17.09.2014
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Mati Tuchfeld

Strange bedfellows

As much as one can judge over the course of two weeks, in these elections the stars are certainly aligned in favor of Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett. Much like Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor Lieberman in the last election, who managed to rise from a handful of seats in the polls to winning 15 seats in the election within a matter of weeks, Bennett too has climbed in the polls and appears to have turned the veteran National Religious Party (the predecessor of the current incarnation) into a hot, trendy commodity.

Bennett has an impressive military record, he established an ideological movement, he served under near-volunteer conditions at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office and in the Yesha settler council, and he did all this while still managing to become extremely successful in the high-tech field. At his young age he is worth millions.

But all that aside, there is something very disturbing about Bennett's conduct. It would be safe to assume that close to 100 percent of Habayit Hayehudi voters support Netanyahu. But it is Netanyahu, of all people, who has been the chief target of Bennett's attacks in recent months. Netanyahu, in fact, did make a mistake in responding to these attacks. He played directly into Bennett's hands. But there is no plausible explanation for Bennett's behavior, ever since he won the primary election against MK Zevulun Orlev.

Or maybe there is: It is no secret that several powerful individuals, including some wily businessmen, successful lawyers, journalists and opposition members, have been doing everything in their power to topple Netanyahu, whose administration has cost them immeasurable amounts of money as well as legal and economic power (as opposed to an administration that would include their associates). One of the main actors in this attempt to topple the prime minister is the daily newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth.

So far, the politicians favored by this group of powerful individuals have included Ehud Olmert, Haim Ramon, Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, and essentially anyone who could take votes away from the current ruling party. There was another laughable effort to establish a new party, called Hayisraelim (“The Israelis”) to appeal to the Russian-speaking demographic and erode Yisrael Beytenu's status. Now, this group has added Bennett to the list of favorites.

When it became clear that Bennett could do more potential damage to Netanyahu than all the others combined, the embrace became stronger and warmer. Despite belonging to the opposing, right-wing camp, Bennett has given himself over to this group's caresses and is even making purring sounds, enjoying the giant headlines they generate for him on a daily, nay, hourly basis. In fact, he should be distancing himself from these people, as they will forget his name about 30 minutes after the voting ends on Election Day, and if not, he will only become another name on their hit list if he dares join Netanyahu's coalition.

Bennett has every right to go after Netanyahu. This is part of the game of politics. But there are those who would say that attacking the man who is your choice, and your voters' choice, for prime minister, is somewhat hypocritical. Some people are blinded by the limelight when the media and other powerful bodies woo them, even if by submitting to the limelight they are serving the opposing camp. Let ideology wait for now.

Ramon, a member of that clique, promised Livni last time that Netanyahu's government would not survive more than a few months. But when Labor joined Netanyahu's coalition it destroyed Ramon's plans. Now he is trying to use Bennett, Livni and Lapid to resurrect his old strategy. He has given up on trying to stop Likud-Beytenu. Now he is trying to just chip away at the party and weaken it. In about a year or so, they believe, the time will become ideal to execute the plan: Olmert may be free of his legal troubles, former IDF chief Gabi Ashkenazi and former Israel Security Agency chief Yuval Diskin will have completed their mandatory cooling-off period before being allowed to enter politics, and life will be good.

But the question of why Bennett has voluntarily chosen to align himself with all these people may disturb many of his potential supporters.

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