The real debate in the primary is over a question that has plagued Bayit Yehudi MKs for the past two years: What does being a religious-Zionist mean?
When registration for Bayit Yehudi’s January 14 primary closed Wednesday and when its membership drive closed last month with 20,000 new members, the party proudly touted its diversity.
More members come from central cities – especially Tel Aviv – or the periphery than from Judea and Samaria, and candidates come from all over the country! Most members are under 34, and many candidates are under 40! Out of 42 candidates, 11 are women – including Anett Haskia, an Arab Zionist with kids in the IDF – and two are Druse! There are also eight Sephardic contenders, by The Jerusalem Post’s count.
Plenty of candidates had little to do with Bayit Yehudi before the party opened the primary to anyone who joins, without a waiting period.
Some moved from other political homes to Bayit Yehudi – like Im Tirzu founder Ronen Shoval, who was affiliated with Yisrael Beytenu; and former Council of Jewish Communities in Judea, Samaria and the Gaza Strip chairman Danny Dayan and attorney Yossi Fuchs, both ex-Likudniks.
The party even has a reality TV star, Akiva Shmuely, who fans of Israel’s version of The Amazing Race (“The Race to the Million”) know as Shushi, the nickname by which his wife and partner in the competition call him.
He worked for former Bayit Yehudi leader Daniel Herschkowitz briefly, but was not involved in party politics in the last two years.
If candidates were broken down into archetypes, party leader Naftali Bennett would probably want his list to include faction chairwoman Ayelet Shaked, his closest ally, and plenty of fresh faces but also loyal old-timers, like Senior Citizens Affairs Minister Uri Orbach.
He’d want someone secular in addition to Shaked, like Shoval or Dayan; a new woman – he seems to favor Peace Now activist-turnedright- winger Anat Roth; an immigrant – US-born Uri Bank has his endorsement; and someone new but loyal, like former IDF chief rabbi Avihai Ronzki, who backed Bennett and Shaked in the last election.
However, the diversity in Bennett’s ideal Bayit Yehudi exists only up to a point.
After all, the party has to rally around something to set it apart from the others.
Those rallying points show, as Bayit Yehudi’s slogan goes, that the candidates have “no apologies” about the party’s core issues. Continue Reading