Religious Zionist leader: Netanyahu will pay at polls for deriding those who seek Torah state

The religious Zionist leader blasted the prime minister, who told a visiting congressional delegation that the idea of a state run by Jewish law was “total nonsense.”

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Transportation Minister Betzalel Smotrich hit back at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who criticized his earlier remarks in favor of a state governed by Jewish law. Netanyahu derided Smotrich on Wednesday before a visiting U.S. congressional delegation.

In a Facebook post, the religious leader of the National Union faction of the United Right, an alliance of similar-minded parties, wrote that on a personal level he forgave Netanyahu for mocking his desire for Israel to one day be governed by halacha, the Hebrew term for Jewish law.

Netanyahu said the idea was “nonsense” and that a halachic state was “ridiculous” in a presentation to some 40 U.S. Democratic representatives, who were on a visit sponsored by the American Israel Education Foundation, a charity affiliated with AIPAC.

“A member of our coalition, not from the Likud but from another party, has said that he would like Israel to be a halachic state. Well, that is pure and utter nonsense,” Netanyahu said, adding “It’s pure BS.”

Smotrich had said at a conference on Monday that it was the dream of all religious people that the state be run according to halacha but that he would never force religious observance on anyone.

“We all want the State of Israel to follow the law of the Torah, we just can’t because there are people who think differently and we need to get along with them,” Smotrich said.

In his Facebook post, Smotrich said that the prime minister was not only deriding him, but disparaging the entire religious public in order to win secular people over to the Likud in the upcoming elections.

“Bibi’s considerations are purely electoral, with not a kernel of truth connected to Judaism,” he wrote. “That’s how it was, that’s how it is, and that’s how it will always be.”

“Bibi wants to appeal to a secular audience today to scrape another mandate or two away. And so today it is convenient to prove how enlightened and progressive he is, on Smotrich’s back,” he said.

Smotrich warned that this tactic would backfire when “in a day or two” Netanyahu will try to get religious voters by promising them the “mountains and hills.”

Netanyahu will try to convince them “that the Likud is the true home of religious Zionism, of the settlement enterprise, of the entire Right,” he said, but the public won’t be fooled again by his scare tactics and “manipulations,” said Smotrich.

“There’s a limit to Bibi’s disparagement of this public’s intelligence and I’m convinced that the limit has already been reached,” he said.

“Religious Zionists, and the real, value-driven right-wing, will give its vote and trust to those who truly believe, and not to someone who fakes religious belief right before elections.”

Netanyahu successfully convinced many religious and politically conservative voters in April’s election to vote Likud, warning that if his party didn’t win more seats than its main rival, Blue and White, a left-wing government would be formed.

The prime minister is using similar messaging in his campaign for the September vote.