Article Library / 2016

2016 Annual Assessment

The Jewish Home party differs from its immediate ancestor, the National Religious Party (NRP), in that it includes avowedly secular members in its leadership. The number two person in the party, Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, is a secular woman. Yinon Magal, a secular journalist, represented the party as a Knesset member (until his resignation in December 2015). Although these secular representatives probably do not fully subscribe to the theological assumptions described above, they do affirm the nationalist outlook of the party and the notion of the Jewish people as a historical nation with historical claims on the Greater Land of Israel. They also tend to emphasize the Jewish identity of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

This is not the first time Religious Zionist leadership has joined forces with secular rightwing elements. In 1979, Geula Cohen and Moshe Shamir founded the Techiyya (Renaissance) party which combined Religious Zionists, such as Hanan Porat and R. Eliezer Waldman, with rightwing secular leaders, such as Ms. Cohen and Prof. Yuval Neeman. This partnership between extremely Orthodox rightwing figures and rightwing secular leaders continued in the successor to the Techiyya party – The National Unity list that included R. Benny Alon (on the Religious Zionist side) and Dr. Aryeh Eldad (on the secular nationalist side).

Thus, in order to fully understand the contemporary Jewish Home Party we should compare it to both of its predecessors. The NRP viewed itself, in large part, as a sectorial party. In addition to securing the settlement of the Greater Land of Israel it also sought to obtain funds and other resources for the ongoing special needs of the Orthodox Religious Zionist community – schools, synagogues, ritual baths etc. In contrast to this, the Techiya/National Unity Party tended to want to give pure expression to the general will (volonté générale( in regard to the incorporation of the Greater Land of Israel.

In contrast to both its predecessors, the Bennett/Shaked wing of the Jewish Home Party tends to present a much more comprehensive integral nationalist agenda – touching upon citizenship and civics education, the national identity of the state and civil society. Furthermore, unlike the rabbis who headed Techiya, they tend to portray themselves as being much more “with it” and in touch with contemporary Israeli culture. Bennett stresses in his self-presentation his background as a successful hi-tech entrepreneur, and Shaked presents herself as a young and stylish Tel Aviv woman (as does Bennett’s wife, Gilat, though she is more suburban).8Their message is that their integral nationalist approach is a relevant alternative for contemporary Israeli society and goes well with contemporary capitalist and consumerist culture.