Last week, Benjamin Netanyahu made a deal with the Jewish Home party—successor to the old National Religious party—in which he offered it seats in a future government if it agreed to form an electoral alliance with the extreme-right, Kahanist Otzma party. Part of his apparent calculus was that Jewish Home, the main religious-Zionist party, is a natural coalition partner for Likud, but, fractured by the recent defection of its erstwhile leaders, it is in danger of failing to receive the minimum number of votes required to get seats in the Knesset. By uniting with Otzma, Jewish Home can raise the chances that it will pass this threshold in the April elections, and thus help ensure that Netanyahu can form a majority coalition. Unsurprisingly, this move to help Otzma, which on its own would not have the votes to win a seat in the Knesset, has sparked condemnations ranging from the prudent to the hysterical. Shlomo Brody comments:
The Jewish Home party has made a moral error by creating a pre-election alliance with Otzma, an anti-Arab group that ascribes to the ideology of the late Meir Kahane. In doing so, Jewish Home will facilitate the entrance of a racist party into the Israeli parliament that will desecrate the name of the Torah and its genuine followers. The good news, however, is that despite its self-identified status as the party of religious Zionists, Jewish Home hasn’t really represented the broader religious-Zionist public for some time, and its mistake now may present an opportunity for renewal and rejuvenation within this sector. . . .
Much of the religious-Zionist public is largely integrated socially and economically within broader Israeli society and does not feel that its own interests need special representation. The religious-Zionist community serves in the army and workforce at the same rates as the general population, and many religious Zionists prefer integration in the political realm as well.
This is not to say that religious Zionists have abandoned Jewish Home. Some have loyally continued to vote for the party because they believe it will ensure government support for sectorial institutions and religious services. Equally important, they think it will maintain certain religious and Zionist values in the public sphere, including the teaching of the Bible and traditional Zionist values in Israel’s education system. The new head of the party, Rabbi Rafi Peretz, claims to want to continue this legacy. . . .
Yet what’s the point of a values-based ideological party if you are willing to partner with those whose values strongly clash with your own?