Israel’s Yamina faction, a collection of nationalist-religious parties, has yet to join the country’s incoming right-center unity government—and time is running short.
Rabbi Rafi Peretz, leader of Yamina member Jewish Home, has decided to leave the faction and join the government as minister for Jerusalem affairs and national projects. However, the rest of Yamina and its capable leaders, unsatisfied with the number and type of ministerial roles they have been offered, are threatening to join the opposition.
Yamina leader Naftali Bennett says he doesn’t believe he or the rest of the faction will be able to influence the direction of the country if they are not given significant leadership roles. While Yamina only received six mandates in the country’s March elections, its leaders feel that because of their loyalty and support for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party, they are due a larger role.
Yet there have been many reports that Yamina was also offered the Education Ministry, among other portfolios. Apparently, however, this was not enough to satisfy Bennett or Yamina, despite the fact that many of their constituents have been urging them to join the government.
The following is this author’s plea to Bennett:
Mr. Bennett: The education portfolio, if defined properly, is nothing less than the future of our holy nation. The role need not be limited to Israel’s schoolchildren; there’s a world of incitement out there that desperately needs attention.
Even in Israeli schools, there is constant pressure to demonize our nation, to celebrate the Palestinian nakba (the “disaster” or “catastrophe” of the creation of the modern-day State of Israel) as former education minister Shai Peron advocates, or to preach anti-Torah messages and who knows what else. Do you not want to help protect our traditional and Zionist values for the next generation?
As defense minister, Mr. Bennett, you were able to expand the traditional role of the military to help lead the battle against the coronavirus pandemic. Why can’t you do the same with education? When you had the Education Ministry, you had success in institutionalizing Jewish history, values and pride throughout the Israeli Jewish education system. Why can’t you look at an expanded mission?
Can you turn your attention to countering incitement in education? A rock was used to murder Israeli soldier Amit Ben-Yigal this week, while a knife was used to murder Ari Fuld in 2018—but it is the “education of incitement” that molded the terrorists that wielded them. The incredible efforts of the Israel Defense Forces and our police, the amazing technology that helps us find murderers before they tackle walls, fences and metal detectors; all are absolutely critical. But the root of terrorism is education.
Recent polling data shows that two-thirds of Arabs living in all of greater Israel hate us. They believe that terrorist attacks are an important part of their mission and should be rewarded. It isn’t just the Palestinian leadership; it’s the rank and file. Downtown Jerusalem does not need a Museum of Tolerance. Ramallah does.
Should we tolerate a math curriculum including word problems like “if I have captured five Jews and kill two, how many Jews are left?” Some argue that if we scrub textbooks from Arab classrooms to remove incitement, they will simply get the incitement at home or in a mosque. Answer: We have to start somewhere. There’s no reason why the ministry’s educational responsibilities should end with Israeli schools.
Can the education mission also include the education of adults? Can the ministry use social media to tamp down incitement in the Arab world? What about the incitement of populations across the globe. Can the Israeli Education Ministry be a bully pulpit for changing textbooks in Europe, American and across the globe that demonize Israel?
This is our nation. We’re back, thank God. But there’s work to do, Mr. Bennett, important work for the future of our people. Screaming from the opposition is a disservice to your voters. Joining the government and employing your traditional and Zionist values, and your formidable skills, is the responsible path forward.
Gary Schiff is a Jerusalem-based natural resource consultant connecting Israel and the United States.