My own personal summer has been overwhelmed by the heat. Do not know what it was in Atlanta but here it has averaged 90 degrees for weeks during June, July and August. The heat of the elections, of course, is much higher powered because of what is at stake – a new government that will lead Israel. I keep seeing articles from abroad labeled “Most Important Election in Israel’s History.” Every election here has its own particular characteristics; only after the next election will you really know what happened back here in 2019 on two occasions.
I have made it a point to focus on those individuals who will do well in these elections. They will not run the “show,” but they will provide us with an opportunity in this new Knesset to see what their future potential is. The only woman leading a party in Israel is Ayelet Shaked, the minister of justice in the last government and the head of the new “Yemina – Go Right party.”
Shaked carries the party leadership because the former number one in the April election, Naftali Bennett, crowned her. The two of them had created a new party that did not get enough votes to enter the Knesset. When this second election was necessary, Bennett put his ego aside and made Shaked number one.
I feel that the two outstanding young politicians in Israel are Shaked and Bennett. They have been sealed together for seven years, the last five in the government. Even though they are on the right, they are most efficient, completing their tasks of governing without getting involved in all types of unnecessary politics.
Shaked wants to strip the Israeli Supreme Court of its power and continue to encourage the growth of the settlements. She is not religious; her husband is a pilot in the Israeli Air Force, and they live in Tel Aviv.
Shaked has a distinctive presence when she speaks and knows exactly what she wants to say. Every time she is asked, this 40-something native-born Israeli, whom her party will recommend to be prime minister, always replies “Netanyahu.” I am sure that is what she will do in the beginning of government building after the election. Since I don’t believe that our new leadership team will be created so quickly, she is a person to watch.
Bennett, a religious nationalist, has American roots since his parents made aliyah from San Francisco many years ago. He also has been very successful in the high-tech field. However, he loves Israel, and wants to be sure what its future will be. So, he put his business interests aside. He and Shaked formed a party; in one election they did not do badly. In the election in 2015, they won enough seats so that Netanyahu, when bringing them into the coalition, had to give Shaked and Bennett cabinet posts. Bennett wanted to be the minister of defense, but in the end, he became minister of education. Shaked became minister of justice.
Since the education ministry of Israel had been in free fall, Bennett proved what could be done. As a successful businessperson, he knows how important “mathematics” is. His campaign was to persuade high school students, all over Israel, to take five points in that subject, highest possible for the final matriculation exams. Amazingly, since he really focused on this and put money into it, students from the communities in the periphery studied five points of math and did well. The students in the big cities continued to take five points of math. He, too, proved that he was a leader with “savvy.” His philosophy is to increase the population of the West Bank even though he does not live there.
David Geffen is a native Atlantan and Conservative rabbi living in Jerusalem.