'No shortcuts to leadership'

MK Smotrich at National Union conference sends message to Jewish Home Chair: 'If Bennett wants to, he can solve the crisis in ten minutes.'

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Eliran Aharon-Mordechai Sones,

Flash 90

MK Betzalel Smotrich describes what appears to be a crisis between his party, the National Union, and the Jewish Home Party as a "fake crisis".

The Jewish Home party and the National Union party ran on a joint list in every election so far, but have not succeeded in unifying officially as one party, due to differences in forming a joint platform with defined religious parameters. There is agreement on Judea and Samaria and the possibility of negotiations with the PA. A committee set up to reach an agreement did not succeed in its mission.

Smotrich says the Jewish Home Chairman Minister Naftali Bennett can solve this "fake crisis" in 10 minutes, and if not ten minutes, then in ten hours.

"The crisis depends solely on Minister Bennett, who can sit with Minister Ariel and resolve the matter and sign an agreement here and now to remove the storm cloud. Of course, the basis and ability to go together is forming a joint platform, that it be clear this is a religious Zionist party with a clear religious Zionist identity, and not a party looking for shortcuts to power and on the way ignoring values and sectorial, moral, and religious commitments."

Smotrich adds that "it's critical that in the landscape of the State of Israel there be a religious party that is holy at its core, a party that joins the sacred and secular. That is the meaning of religious Zionism."

When asked where the pitfalls are preventing unity, Smotrich replied that this question should be addressed to Minister Bennett himself, but he is convinced that the issue is solvable "assuming Naftali wants to remain the leader of religious Zionism and isn't looking for shortcuts to other places, then there's no reason why we shouldn't go together. That's what the public wants, that's what's right and politically good, and that's what's true and good for ideological strategy. If he turns to other paths, and this may be legitimate for him, there will be a religious Zionist party that will represent the public. This movement will maintain its political, economic, and cultural power. Our ability to share the religious Zionist worldview in the State of Israel is based on the fact that we preserve this public-mindedness."

"There is a public that needs to be preserved, its institutions and establishments. There are 300,000 students in religious education. Our task is to preserve religious education, to raise the next generation of G-d-fearing Jews in the State of Israel. Doesn't that justify a party's existence?" Smotrich asked.

In Smotrich's assessment, at the end of the day there will be a joint run, besides the fact that elections are not close at hand. "There's no reason to run as two parties, unless someone wants to form a second Likud."

As for Bennett's remarks about his intention to become Prime Minister, MK Smotrich believes that Bennett himself knows in the current constellation such a scenario is impossible. "I praise him, but I say - first, patience - there are no shortcuts to leadership. Those who think they can achieve leadership by taking shortcuts that mean disavowal of values, identity, and commitment, blurring and converging into a broad common denominator, will not reach leadership. The Israeli public wants leadership with roots, values, and a backbone. Maybe this generation is not ready yet (using a Talmudic phrase, ed.) and it could take a few more years."

Beyond this, says Smotrich, such a move is not worth the loss of the religious Zionist sector. "The way to share these values is to preserve the community. A community has power and power brings influence. If there's no religious Zionist public, there will be many religious Zionists with the books of Rabbi Kook zt"l and Rabbi Soloveitchik in the living room, but there will be no power that influences the public and this power as an influence is far more important to our leadership. Leadership isn't just sitting on the throne. We already have leadership and they claim we're leading the government on strategic and security issues. We're in favor of leadership but while preserving identity, even if it's slower and takes more time."