Sunday, January 06, 2013

Israel's Surging New Voice On The Right

There's an amazing development taking place in Israeli politics as the country continues its ongoing election campaign.

The polls show that a new party and a brand new face is gaining ground on Netanyahu and Likud from the right.

The Party is HaBayit HaYehudi (Jewish Home), and the new face is 40-year-old Naftali Bennett.

Jewish Home is essentially a coalition of various religious Zionist factions. Bennet and his party favor a number of common sense moves, such as annexing Area C in Judea and Samaria where most of the Jewish communities are and where hardly any Arabs live, moving more towards a free market economy and creating a national solution for affordable housing, a huge issue in Israel.

And his message is resonating.

Currently, the polls show the Likud-Israel Beiteinu merger to be on track to get only 32 seats (the two parties currently hold 42), while Jewish Home is looking at 16 seats.And most of it is at the expense of Likud/Israel Beiteinu.

That's up from 14 seats last week and nine at the end of October.

At this rate, Jewish Home may even surpass Labor, currently polling at 17 seats.

Netanyahu, foolishly, has been sniping at Bennett and Jewish Home, which has only continued to drive more voters to support them. The magic number for Israel's 120 member Knesset is 60+, and at this rate, Netanyahu, who is still the favorite to win enough seats to be re-elected and form the next Israeli government may have to swallow his words and bring Bennett and Jewish Home into his coalition.

Naftali Bennett's story is an interesting one. A native of Haifa, he is the son of American olim(immigrants) who moved to Israel from San Francisco after the Six Day War.

He's a major in the IDF reserves, having served in Netanyahu's old unit, the elite Sayeret Matkal and with the Maglan (Ibis), a very hush hush IDF unit that specializes in operating behind enemy lines. During the Second Lebanon War, the Maglan destroyed 250 Hezbollah targets on Lebanon's coast in Operation Beach Boy.

A lawyer by training, he made his fortune with an Israeli company that invented and marketed some SOTA anti-fraud software, which he later sold to a larger company for a nine figure sum.

He also served as Netanyahu's political chief of staff in Likud 2006 to 2008, helped develop Netanyahu's program on education and masterminded Netanyahu's primary campaign to head Likud in 2007.

It appears that that Bennett and Netanyahu fell out over the 2010 Settlement Freeze Bibi was arm twisted into by President Obama as a unilateral 'good faith gesture' which, of course, gained Israel absolutely nothing.

Bennett, then Director General of the Yesha Council vigorously opposed the freeze and I wouldn't be surprised if there were some personal issues between the two.

It's not surprising to me that there would be a surge of support for the right in Israel. At this point, only the most delusional Israelis or those who get their paychecks from the EU believe the two state solution is viable anymore.

No comments: