Naftali Bennet is Minister of Economy and leader of the Jewish home party, he Serves as Major in the IDF's Sayeret Matkal reserves, is a former Hi-Tech worker and former Chief of Staff for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In his last position he was Yesha Council Director.
Nationality: Jewish or Israeli?
Israeli based on Judaism. Modern Zionism based on Hertzel and Jabotinsky meant a refuge state for the Jewish nation. This kind of Zionism has lasted so far and because of it the State of Israel was established. But existential and security needs are not the basis of the establishment of the State of Israel, if they were we could have gone and built our state in Uganda. The basis of the State of Israel is the Bible and our 3,800 year old heritage. That is why modern Israeli identity needs to be based on Judaism.
How does the Jewish Home party intend on addressing the secular Zionist public? Is the Jewish Home actually also the home of those who do not keep Torah and Mitzvot?
The party is called Jewish Home and not Religious Home. The base is one of cooperation and connection, with the connection stemming from faith and Judaism. The Jewish Home party is – as its name indicates - Jewish. Anyone who is driven by their Jewish identity and sees the people of Israel as a unique nation and the land of Israel as a 3800 year old promise, anyone who is willing to give their life for Israel and work for this wonderful country, is a partner for me, regardless of whether or not he keeps all the commandments.
That is why if we really want thrive and not wither, we must go out and connect with our secular and conservative brothers and cooperate and move forward. The public is tired of the sectorial perspective. That is why the Mafdal party, who used to have 12 mandates in the Israeli Parliament, now has two mandates. I believe that the religious public wants a connection with all its brothers, secular or otherwise. I intend to work as hard as I can to bring unity. The root of all our problems is separation. We can always find conflict. We need to focus on the 85% of things that we do agree on and not on our few differences.
Is the fixation of religious Zionism on the land of Israel distancing it from the consensus?
Firstly, I am a man of the land of Israel. I love this Country. I breathe it, travel it and live in it. In my eyes the settlers of Judea and Samaria as well as the settlers of the Negev and the Galilee are the pioneers of our times. With that said, I agree that we need to work on many fronts, first of all by promoting Jewish identity to all of the children of Israel, closing the intolerable social gaps, safeguarding the land, making sure that all immigrants from the former Soviet Union are converted in accordance with Jewish law, in a manner that brings them closer. Making sure that city rabbis are Zionists, finding solutions to the asylum seekers. We must lead with these issues and not just with issues about the land of Israel.
Education: In your opinion, what is the ideal approach to education?
Let me tell you a story. Last week I was at a state school, not a religious one. The principal told me that history class hours had been cut and that he chose to cut studies on the second temple period as opposed to cutting from the middle ages studies. That means that children in this country will not know that 2000 years ago there was a Jewish state here. I inquired and this is a common occurrence throughout Israel. Therefore in the practical sense I would significantly increase the Judaism and Jewish history in schools, promoting curriculum that will increase knowledge and love of Israel. This would come at the expense of much less practical subjects such as horse riding. As in any subject the important question is "what", "how" is easier.
Society: What is your stand on drafting Haredim to the IDF?
The issue of drafting the Haredim is complicated and filled with populism. There are two problems with the Haredim issue, the burden of IDF service and the inclusion in the work force. The big problem is the work issue and the small problem is the IDF drafting. But the media focus has turned the priority around. We need to strive to include the Haredim in the work force and in the IDF but with a number of principals:
- Not by force. By agreement and with incentives.
- Gradually. Over several years. We must understand that the Haredim themselves are looking for a solution.
- The understanding that the when the Haredim join the work force it will bring a positive result for Israel and that it was the emphasis should be put on.
- In any case we must preserve a strong solid presence of Torah scholars for the state of Israel.
Who decides? The majority or the rabbi?
It depends on the issue. In terms of Jewish law, obviously we must refer to a rabbi. In regards to other issues - experts in security, economy, education and so on and so forth.
Coffee: Who from the "other side" would you like to meet for a coffee? Who would you not want to meet?
I would gladly meet with anyone that is a Jewish-Zionist that has the best for Israel in mind.