How a Secular Woman from Tel Aviv Rose to the Top of Israel’s National-Religious Political Bloc

After failing to form a government after April’s elections, Israel is getting ready for a second   round of voting on September 17. Becoming more significant among the large roster of political players is Ayelet Shaked, newly announced as the leader of the United Right, a combined list of political factions representing Israel’s religious-Zionist community. That in itself is surprising. As Sam Sokol writes, “While women have led Israeli political parties, none has ever risen to the pinnacle of political power in a bloc representing the traditionally patriarchal Orthodox community.” Not only that, but Shaked is herself secular.

Growing up as a middle-class child in the Tel Aviv of the 1980s, Shaked could have been expected to develop into a left-leaning Labor or Meretz voter, a proponent of two states and liberal policies. But as Shaked told the New York Times in 2015, she experienced a personal revelation at the age of eight when she watched Prime Minister Yitzḥak Shamir debate an opponent on television: she was swayed by his nationalistic perspective.

During their mandatory military service, some Israelis tend to shift to the right, at least for a while, and a stint as an instructor in the storied Golani infantry brigade helped Shaked strengthen her conservative political outlook.

That explains Shaked’s side of the story. As for how the right-wing national-religious camp accepted her as its leader, the answer seems to be that it is currently more focused on nationalist issues than on religious ones:

“What does seem to unite the national religious are political issues, such as considering themselves right-of-center and believing the Law of Return should [extend citizenship only] to those who are Jewish according to Jewish law,” or halakhah [as one observer, Yehoshua Oz,] said.

Shaked’s work ethic, as well, has won her followers:

Conversations with people close to Shaked painted a picture of a woman willing to listen to the unique ideological needs and demands of her constituents and to respect their unique sensibilities. For instance, while she is not personally religious, Shaked makes a point of not giving interviews on Shabbat or publicly eating in non-kosher restaurants.

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More about: Ayelet Shaked, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Election 2019, Religious Zionism

Is There a Way Out of Israel’s Political Deadlock?

On Tuesday, leaders of the Jewish state’s largest political parties, Blue and White and Likud, met to negotiate the terms of a coalition agreement—and failed to come to an agreement. If none of the parties in the Knesset succeeds in forming a governing coalition, there will be a third election, with no guarantee that it will be more conclusive than those that preceded it. Identifying six moves by key politicians that have created the deadlock, Shmuel Rosner speculates as to whether they can be circumvented or undone:

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Read more at Jewish Journal

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Election 2019, Israeli politics