Habayit Hayehudi did very well in the last election, and party chairman Naftali Bennett is now in on the ground level of the new government, thanks to the mediation process between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid. Now it is time for him to figure out how to maximize the profits from his successful efforts.
Let's take a moment for a bit of nostalgia: One day after I joined the army, many years ago, I was summoned by Maj. Gen. Shlomo Goren, who was the chief military rabbi at the time. He informed me that I would serve as a religious services noncommissioned officer within the military rabbinate. But I wanted to serve in the armored corps, and when I refused my orders I had to stand trial. After seven days in military detention, I was stationed in the celebrated 188th armored corps brigade. With my placement in a brigade that was not specifically designed to accommodate observant Jews — who were generally placed in the Nachal or the military rabbinate — my service wasn't easy.
As a solider, I believed that the national-religious sector possessed exactly the right idea of what the character and future of Israeli society should be. The national-religious formula would ensure a value-driven society founded on national cooperation and the renewal of the Zionist spirit, which had begun to die. I felt that the only way this vision could be realized was if the national-religious population was to breach the boundaries of the sector and become allied with significant political powers in Israel.
Many years have passed, and over the years I have witnessed, with desperation, how the national religious sector carries most of the national burden — in absorbing immigration, settling the country and ensuring its security — while simultaneously being trampled by sharp-tongued politicians and the well-oiled hostile media machine. The settlement of Judea and Samaria has become an obstacle to peace. The settler youth has gained the derogatory nickname "hilltop youth" and courageous fighters have been turned into insubordinate refusniks. The delicate souls of the national-religious leadership resigned themselves to being pushed into the fringes of Israeli society. It was a type of groveling resignation that involved yielding to the ultra-Orthodox rabbinate on issues relating to Jewish law and an endless effort to gain the favor of the secular population.
In the last election, the national-religious sector began standing a little taller. It was in large part thanks to Naftali Bennett's fresh variety of leadership. On top of that, the impact of Bennett's leadership style was compounded several times over by the media, which played up Bennett as a way of sticking it to Netanyahu and Likud. But despite his big elections success, Bennett is wrong if he thinks that he can lead the country from within the confines of his little national-religious sector. Leadership of a country can only be done with the help of a large bloc that represents the entire spectrum of society.
The political situation in Israel after the last election has, for the first time in history, allowed a national-religious party to become a significant and pivotal part of the larger political picture, creating an opportunity for the implementation of its Zionist vision. This potential political framework could be nicknamed "Likud-Beytenu-Hayehudi" — and if it actually happens it could allow the Right to lead the country for many years to come by way of Zionism and social values.
In large part, the Israeli public loves the land of Israel, and is intrinsically linked to the Jewish tradition. Most of the Israeli public knows that national-religious education successfully challenges the spirit of decadence and escapism that is threatening to devour Israeli youth these days. Many among us have already come to terms with the toll of postmodernism on Israel, and how it has disrupted our value system and gave rise to many terrible social ills. The link between religious Zionism and the ruling party could ensure that the light of Jewish existence in this country is never extinguished. In fact, it could be encouraged to grow and intensify, because it is a part of our spirit, and now is the time to act. If there is any kind of real future for Israel, this is it.