הפגנת הדגלים השחורים בבלפור
Anti-government protestors in Jerusalem
Photo: Alex Kolomoisky
A religious man joins the anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem

Why religious Zionists refuse to join anti-Netanyahu protests

Opinion: The religious Zionists learned very well during the 2005 disengagement from Gaza that protests don't lead anywhere because they don't represent the majority, and the majority of Israeli public is sitting at home and not rallying in front of PM's house

Shai Alon |
Published: 08.04.20 , 23:09
In an opinion piece on Monday, Yedioth Ahronoth columnist Ben Dror-Yemini wondered why the religious Zionists have not joined the swelling protests against Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rule.
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  • Many pundits have asked the same question, wondering what does the absence of this sector from the anti-government rallies mean?
    ההפגנה בבלפורההפגנה בבלפור
    A religious man joins the anti-Netanyahu protest in Jerusalem
    (Photo: Yoav Dudkevich )
    Suddenly, the public blamed for stoking religious tensions has become the moral rubber stamp of approval for these protests. Turns out you cannot have a good protest in Israel without a token religious Zionist around.
    So why didn't the religious Zionists show at the Balfour street - where the Prime Minister's Residence is located - for the past few weeks? Because Israel does not have non-political protests, and it's doubtful if there ever were.
    When it comes to protests, political divide between the right and the left wing has been around since before the establishment of Israel.
    The 1967 Six-Day War, which gave us back the West Bank, only emphasized that. The assassination of Yitzhak Rabin done away with any possibility this will ever change. Even the 2011 social justice protests, which really touched on issues affecting every household in Israel, failed in rising above that political divide.
    It is a matter of perspective as they say, and when it comes to politics, you have nothing to look for at the opposite end. No matter how much the religious Zionists are unhappy with Netanyahu, they are unhappy with the left much more.
    It angers them when banners calling to end the occupation are held up during protests meant to deal with financial issues. It angers them when state symbols used as canvas for provocative and blunt.
    שוטרים לפני בית הכנסת בכפר דרוםשוטרים לפני בית הכנסת בכפר דרום
    Police during the 2005 Gaza Strip Disengagement, evacuting a synoguge at the former settlement of Kfar Darum
    (Photo: EPA)
    It angers them that in 2005, when they evacuated Israeli settlements during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, they expected the public to take to the streets en masse to show their disagreement - but they did not.
    Someday, Netanyahu will cease to be Israel's premier, and the left will cheer and point to the protests as the reason why it happened - even if it happens 1,000 years from now. But until then, he will squeeze every last drop out of his position. As far as the religious Zionists are concerned, that is a good enough reason not to take to the streets.
    Israel has only political protests, but they do not change anything, at least not anymore. The right-wing learned that lesson during the Gaza Strip Disengagement, when one of the biggest and most critical political protest in the history of Israel proved ineffecteive.
    Israel has only political protests, but they do not change anything, at least not anymore. The right-wing learned that lesson during the Gaza Strip Disengagement, when one of the biggest and most critical political protest in the history of Israel proved ineffective.
    A woman being evacuated from her home during the 2005 Gaza Strip Disengagement A woman being evacuated from her home during the 2005 Gaza Strip Disengagement
    A woman being evacuated from her home during the 2005 Gaza Strip Disengagement
    (Photo: Avi Moalem)
    The Balfour protests have been blown out of proportions merely because it is Netanyahu, because the unemployment is high, because of the agenda TV channels are trying to push and because we are sick and tired of coronavirus.
    It does not matter if 2,000 or 20,000 attend these protests. If you visit the Central Bureau of Statistics, you will see that Israel has a population of almost 9 million. Nine million minus 20,000 would represent the overwhelming majority of this country, whose current state is not bad enough to make them take to the streets.
    If there is something the religious Zionists learned in the past 15 years is how to connect to the Israeli public, and the public is sitting at home, not rallying on Balfour Street. So, see you after the coronavirus crisis.
    Shai Alon is the Chief Councilman for the Local Council of Beit El

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