Whether he has principles that he still adheres to, or if nothing will get in the way of his unbridled ambition
Naftali Bennett stepped into the prime minister’s position with his credibility at rock bottom thanks to a series of broken campaign promises that antagonized his base and that his opponents will use to hound him.
In recent weeks, I’ve written that Bennett’s supporters fooled themselves more than he fooled them, and I won’t revisit that now.
What I will note is that I conducted what’s probably the most comprehensive interview Bennett ever gave to the English-language press, back in November 2012, before his inaugural run for the Knesset. Here are three quotes from that article that will shed light on his thinking, and serve as my litmus test for whether he has principles that he still adheres to, or if nothing will get in the way of his unbridled ambition.
On the Chareidi Draft
When you talk about chareidi enlistment, to the army and to national service, the three principles I hold are:
1) The chareidim are my brothers, which some people don’t get.
2) Torah study is a national interest of the State of Israel, not just of the chareidim. Just like everyone needs a strong air force — a strong air force is not just about the pilots, it’s about Israel.
3) The current state [of the draft law] is not viable. Obviously, there are many folks who are not learning Torah and yet don’t serve and we need to fix that.
Those are the principles. How do you do it? I’m against sanctions. We don’t need sanctions. All we need to do is create more paths that can accommodate the unique needs of chareidim that will allow them to either serve in the army or do national service.
On Relations with American Jews
Aliyah is important. But we live in an era when not everyone’s going to make aliyah. I think Israel has a different mission vis-à-vis the diaspora. That mission is the same mission I have in Israel. To restore our Jewish identity. Assimilation is crazy, and I think it’s our responsibility, to a certain degree, to take care of world Jewry. I think the prime minister of Israel, beyond being the leader of the State of Israel, has another hat. He’s the head of the Jews in the world. But up until now no one has treated that position as such.
“Lots of Israeli politicians view America as a wallet, as a place packed with money. I don’t think that’s right, and I don’t think the relationship ought to be about that. It ought to be about taking care of each other. I think Israel now has more to give to world Jewry than to take. There’s lots of stuff we could fix, but we have to change the relationship from America being a wallet to America being a brother in need of Jewish identity. Taglit, Birthright, is a wonderful example of the State of Israel, together with partners, taking responsibility. We need more of that.”
On Standing Up to US Pressure for Land for Peace Concessions
“Israel’s security is very important. But if all of our interests are just security interests, you can just bring in a general and say, do that. I believe in Eretz Yisrael not only because it’s a safe haven for Jews, but because it’s ours, and it’s been ours for 3,800 years, since G-d gave it to Avraham. And when your roots are 3,800 years deep, you can withstand the winds better than if your roots are 100 years deep — since modern Zionism. But I have to prove myself.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 865)
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