Last Thursday, I returned to my origins: A gathering marking the age of 40 in my parents' community. The age of 40 gatherings have recently become part of the year's routine. As a failing student I went through several schools, then to the army and university. Now everyone is meeting to enthusiastically mark the famous age crisis.
We gathered at the old synagogue where we used to run our lives. A prefabricated building which turned, like the rest of the settlements, into the most permanent thing there is. When I was an active youth movement member, we were called Shevet Hamevaser ("The Announcing Branch"). I don't think we announced anything, but the names of the Bnei Akiva branches always pretended to mark something big.
Most of the gathering's participants were religious people. The seculars hardly arrived. Most of the girls came with head covers in difference sizes, most of the boys wore a skullcap, and there were a few rabbis too. Good citizens who completed their military service and do their reserve service, who pay taxes and want to see Israel thrive.
It was two days after the elections, after the Likud's big win. So we drank soup and talked about politics. The overwhelming majority are considered right-wing voters. One or two may have voted for the centrist parties. They are moderate people even when distant views are discussed. The classic target audience of the Bayit Yehudi party. Like in every corner of Religious Zionism, there were some who told me that they had shifted their vote to the Likud at the last moment. Two said they did it because of the media, and one said he was afraid that the national camp would lose.
An hour before our meeting, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu retracted his retraction of the Bar-Ilan speech. We are in favor of a solution of two states for two people and against the idea of a binational state, he said in his first interview since the elections. What was said is null and void. The idea exists, if we'll only have the chance.
In the small Religious Zionism around me, no one was surprised. He said one thing and then said a different thing. That's his politics. No one understands it and no one will understand it. Even if there is another settlement construction freeze, no one will be surprised, someone said. It has already happened, particularly in right-wing governments.
Netanyahu is not their cup of tea. Those among them who voted for the Likud didn’t do it because of their faith in Netanyahu himself, but because there was no one else. At the last moment, Netanyahu's argument sounded more convincing than Naftali Bennett's arguments. That's the way it was in every group and party whose voters are close to the Likud. That's what happened at the last moment to the voters of Moshe Kahlon, Avigdor Lieberman and even a few of Yair Lapid's voters.
Despite the current tendency to accuse the pollsters and the media, the polls conducted several days before the elections pointed to an accurate trend. The Likud had many deserters. The numbers expressed a real feeling, but feelings are not enough in elections. Netanyahu succeeded in reversing the feelings and gathering the people around his flag. A person who is completely out of touch, as he was accused, doesn’t succeed this way.
The religious Zionist voters are interested in preventing the evacuation of communities. They are afraid of a peace agreement which won't bring peace, of a unilateral disengagement which will turn Samaria into Gaza. Most of them, despite the skullcap on their head, present pragmatic arguments and are don’t speak out of a sense of a divine message. And that's their exact problem in these elections: The Likud's victory is too big, and the Bayit Yehudi party is too small. Netanyahu will eventually find himself in a rightist-haredi government. That's exactly what he declared and that's the exact scenario he is secretly afraid of.
Netanyahu has never been the left marker of his government vis-à-vis the world's pressure. That role has been filled by the Labor Party, Ehud Barak's Atzmaut (Independence) party and Tzipi Livni (his punching bag in these elections), who fit him like a glove. A rightist-haredi government leaves him defenseless. And the voices coming from the United States prove it.
Netanyahu doesn’t want to make any dramatic moves. He didn't want to announce a construction freeze in the past or release Palestinian prisoners either. Sometimes moves begin when you don't want them to. That's what happened to Menachem Begin with Sinai, to Yitzhak Shamir with Madrid, to Rabin with Oslo, and to Netanyahu with Hebron.
So if I were the Yesha Council, I would launch protests in favor of a national unity government. It's the opposite of the Likud's election promise, but does anyone believe it anyway?