Israel’s defense minister Naftali Bennett is willing to sacrifice the possible advent of a solid right-wing government after Israel’s March elections because of a picture hanging on a living-room wall.
In the last election, Otzma Yehudit attracted 84,000 votes, which would ordinarily be the equivalent in Israel of two seats in the Knesset. The law, however, requires that any party draw at least 3.25% of the electorate in order to qualify as a Knesset party and be awarded seats in parliament. Because their votes did not reach the threshhold, Otzma Yehudit could not claim those two seats, and their 84,000 votes were discounted and lost to the right.
According to news reports, Bennett’s objection to being joined with Otzma is because the party leader, Ben-Gvir, has a photograph of Dr. Baruch Goldstein hanging on a wall in his home.
Prime Minister Netanyahu was willing to look the other way, so to speak, in the interest of being able to carve out a government coalition after almost a year of efforts and attempts to move Israel in that direction.
But Bennett drew a line, and rejected the prime minister’s effort to have Itamar Ben-Gvir of the Otzma Yehudit party join Bennett’s right wing-coalition so that the votes for Ben-Gvir’s party are not wasted as they were in the last election in September.
For those who do not recall, it was Purim morning in 1994 when the news emanated from Hebron that a local resident of Hebron had entered the Cave of the Patriarchs with his licensed gun in hand and went about murdering 29 Muslim worshipers in the religious shrine that Muslims also consider holy.
Dr. Goldstein did a horrible thing that should always be condemned and is inexcusable even after the passage of a quarter-century.
But the question still stands today: Was Dr. Goldstein committing a crazy act of terror, or did he emotionally snap and simply lose his mind as he shot up the hall? During this horrible killing spree, Goldstein was killed when a worshipper hit him over the head with a fire extinguisher he lifted from one of the walls.
The other side of the story was that Goldstein, as a medical practitioner, had seen and treated so many Jews who were killed or injured over the years by Arab terror attacks that it was just too much for him to take anymore. His killing spree was preceded by the death of a close friend of his in Hebron, Shalom Lapid, who was gunned down while hitching a ride at a popular hitchhiking post near the city.
The rest of the story that emerged following this audacious act was that Goldstein, who treated both Arabs and Jews in Hebron, had information that Arabs in the Cave of the Patriarchs were planning a Purim-morning massacre of Jews and he was looking, at the cost of his own life, to preempt a greater loss of Jewish life where so much had been sacrificed over the years.
But Dr. Goldstein was a follower of Kach Party leader and Jewish Defense League founder Rabbi Meir Kahane, as is Mr. Ben-Gvir. Even though Kahane achieved success by being voted into a lone Knesset seat before the qualification law had changed, he was shortly thereafter legally determined to be a racist and thereby banned from seeking reelection to the Knesset.
Which Dr. Goldstein is Ben Gvir paying tribute to with a photo in his home? Is it the Dr. Goldstein who wantonly murdered Muslims as an act of hate or revenge, or is it a neighbor who lost his mind, was no longer in control of or responsible for his actions, and became the worst murderer in Israel’s history?
Apparently, Netanyahu may have thought that the situation was the latter, while Bennett, who hopes to be prime minister someday (soon), feels that it is the former and that he cannot run with a man who pays tribute to a terrorist.
Last week, The Jerusalem Post dealt with this issue, pointing out that many mainstream Israeli officials like Blue and White leaders Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid have no problem openly dealing with supporters of terrorism and terrorists, like Ahmad Tibi, for example, who is a member of Knesset from the Joint Arab List party.
Politics being what it is in Israel today even has Blue and White leaders suggesting or perhaps threatening to form a governing coalition with support and votes from the Arab List in the Knesset. These men and women do not just have fundamental disagreements with Israel but actually support the destruction of the Jewish state. While it is mostly considered not a possibility to form such a government, the objections are not as vociferous or as forceful as the objections to a possibility that a right-leaning government might be formed with followers of Rabbi Kahane.
As for The Jerusalem Post’s editorial position on this, the paper says that tolerating a government with Tibi and friends forming the majority is an anathema but that two wrongs do not make one right.
On another level, even if, as some are suggesting, Ben-Gvir sympathizes with what some consider racists and racism, why is it OK to accept similar if not much worse behavior coming at us from the non-Jewish members of the Knesset, who labor nonstop on the effort of deconstructing the Jewish state?
Naftali Bennett can make it possible for Bibi to form a razor-thin majority in the March elections in Israel. Apparently, he is more concerned, at this juncture anyway, with his personal image and how his position will play with American Jews and support for his political future.
Meir Kahane loved Israel and loved Jews more than anything else. He was murdered here in New York while delivering a speech to a group of supporters 30 years ago. So maybe he did not go about achieving his objectives the best way possible. He was essentially a one-man show doing the best that he could and he accomplished a lot.
Two years ago, I interviewed his brother, Rabbi Nachman Kahane, who has resided in Jerusalem for more than 50 years. One of the things he told me at the time was that his brother, Meir, had a feeling that he would be murdered someday. Meir’s hope was that the murderer would not be a Jew. He was killed by El Sayyid Nosair, who is still sitting in prison today in the United States.
Before negotiations ended on whether to include Otzma Yehudit in the unified right-wing coalition, Ben-Gvir said he would take the photo of Dr. Goldstein off the wall in his home. That wasn’t good enough for Bennett, and as it looks now those votes will simply go to waste.