Bennett and Shaked may be down but they are not out


They had the most talked-about partnership in Israeli politics precisely because of their long and stable relationship in a place commonly populated by lone wolves. When everyone tried to be a solo artist, they emphasized teamwork. In a forum where there is not enough room to contain every ego, in their relationship they regularly divert the ego to one side. Even now, when his play has failed so clearly, none of them are throwing dirt at the other, although it may have been anticipated given their current political fate.

Naftali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked entered politics together. Bennett, then a successful high-tech entrepreneur and millionaire, brought with him new energy and became the great hope of religious Zionism, and in his wake followed large waves of young people.

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett (Photo: Rami Zarnegar)

Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett (Photo: Rami Zarnegar)

Shaked also came from the high-tech world, but she was someone difficult to digest at first: it is reserved and does not open easily but brings new dimensions to Israeli politics. In a short time, it was impossible to ignore her. Her authentic modesty and power – but especially her restraint that is rare in politics – created the image of an "ice queen" who remained with her throughout her long period in government.

A road built for two was not always simple and included some obstacles and difficulties. Some of them were the product of disagreements with Benjamin and Sara Netanyahu since the days when they were part of their Likud cabinet as opposition president. Bennett and Shaked are now forced to maneuver in a tight spot, for even when Netanyahu ignores them, he tries to diminish them and turn them into irrelevance, leaving him not an option. Leading the Zionist religious camp and trying to attract the right-wing crowd means accepting the authority of Netanyahu even as he pulls repeated knives at you.

Their joint record achievement was after the 2015 elections, although they were disappointed with the results. For the first time, Netanyahu focused his campaign on targeting Bennett and Shaked, stealing vital seats at the last minute. However, it was from this seemingly weak position that they entered into coalition negotiations with a single goal – to understand the situation that was unfolding and to be able to turn in its favor.

Naftali Bennett in a cabinet meeting (Photo: Amit Shabi)

Naftali Bennett in a cabinet meeting (Photo: Amit Shabi)

On the dramatic final night of the coalition's negotiations, Bennett had the same message for everyone he met: "Go to sleep, we'll have the ministries of justice and education, as well as points in the cabinet, secured in the morning." And so it happened.

It can be said that Bennett is childish; one can criticize some of the moves he has made with a recklessness that defines him for good and evil, but the only thing one can not draw from him is that he is driven by a true sense of mission – he believes in his and he is committed to it.

As for Shaked, who soon became one of the most popular politicians in Israel, who changed the discourse in and on the judicial system, who faced the attorney general and Supreme Court president when she found it necessary, it is unlikely to disappear so early. The fact that she is being pursued from every possible direction is a phenomenon that is worth expanding separately. It is a clear electoral asset in any situation.

Nevertheless, the establishment of the New Right was a sloppy and disorganized adventure, born mainly of Bennett's boldness and the belief that there should be a different kind of right. It was an awkward move that demanded a high price and proved that in politics there is no magic.

Ayelet rocked on election day in Tel Aviv (Photo: Moti Kimchi)

Ayelet Shaked on Election Day in Tel Aviv (Photo: Moti Kimchi)

One can agree on their path or not – but one must admit that the duo were among the most dedicated politicians when it came to their audience. There are many opportunists who have been repeatedly elected to the Knesset, where cynicism is an inseparable part of the process. Many of them see things one way, but they say the opposite, because that resonates on their basis. Bennett and Shaked are not so – what comes out of their mouths is usually what's in their hearts.

They brought religious Zionism forward and to new heights, and they left their mark. It is not yet clear whether this is the end of the political path for the two, or what will happen to their alliance, whether they return to politics together or separately and in what form.

Perhaps two of the most prominent ministers in recent years have peaked. Or, as in 2015, they will show how they can enjoy moments of weakness and come back even stronger than before.


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