Will Right-Wingers ‘Come Home’ from the Likud?

Why Dani Dayan’s candidacy for the Jewish Home could mark a turning point in the party’s quest to lead the nationalist camp.

By Ari Soffer, INN

Dayan BYFormer Yesha Council Chairman Dani Dayan is one of the latest prominent nationalist figures to throw his weight behind Naftali Bennett’s Jewish Home party, announcing his intention to run in the upcoming primaries and represent the party as an MK in the 20th Knesset.

It is not the first foray into party politics for Dayan, who for the past several years has served as the foreign envoy for the Yesha Council, which represents the Jewish communities of Judea and Samaria. The veteran oleh from Argentinawas once the secretary-general of the now-defunct Tehiya faction within the National Union party, which recently formalized its own merger with the Jewish Home.

In the last elections, however, Dayan came out in support of Likud; now, his move “back” to the Jewish Home party is seen as something of a coup. It represents a major step towards consolidating the party’s position among the right-wing electorate – in particular among residents of Judea and Samaria, for whom Dayan has been a high-profile advocate – and will likely draw some nationalist voters away from Likud and other rival parties.

“I was not a political activist from day one though,” he qualifies, emphasizing that his experience as a Major in the IDF, as well as a founder of one of Israel’s leading hi-tech companies in the 1980’s (“well before it was fashionable!”)exhibits a breadth of experience which would benefit the party considerably.

Dayan says his move was a “natural” one, and came after Bennett approached him at the recent Saban Forum conference in Washington. The Economics Minister had just been speaking at the conference, where he famously clashed with former US Middle East envoy Martin Indyk.

“After he spoke we had a little conversation and he asked me to ‘come back home,'” Dayan recalls simply. “We had a very good conversation, and when I got back – I landed on Friday at 5 a.m. – at 8 a.m. I called Naftali, and I went to his home and we had a lechaim!”

He explains his support for Likud in the last elections as merely “tactical”, and noted that apart from actually voting for the party he was not really an active member, nor was he ideologically married to it. “In previous elections I voted National Union, or Moledet, but I made a tactical decision last time.”

“The situation now is not the same as it was two years ago,” he continued. “Back then there was only one major party in the national camp (Likud), which if it was weakened too much meant we would lose the reins of government.

“This time the situation is completely different. There are two big parties, the Jewish Home and the Likud, so that tactical consideration doesn’t exist any more.”

With that “tactical” issue resolved, he says he was able to focus on his “purely ideological considerations” – which brought him to the Jewish Home.

“The Jewish Home is the only party that unequivocally opposes the division of the Land of Israel for a ‘Palestinian state,’ while Likud says ‘Yes, but…'” he asserts. “That’s not good enough.”

It’s a journey that will resonate with other right-wing voters, many of whom will have previous opted to vote for Likud despite some ideological reservations about its support for a two-state solution, due to a perception that it was the only major, relevant right-wing political force out there. It is for precisely that reason that Dayan’s candidacy is so significant – he signifies something of a turning point in Bennett’s quest to build the Jewish Home into a viable alternative to lead the nationalist camp.

Dayan says he was partly drawn to the party due to Bennett himself, describing him as a responsible leader and admitting he was somewhat surprised at the political acumen the freshman MK exhibited during his first stint in government – and the Knesset for that matter.

“I watched Naftali during the last two years. I must admit I was a bit worried that he would be too trigger-happy in toppling the government, but he was exactly the opposite,” he remarked.

“Despite the fact that he was the only one who had a real political interest, a real political benefit in advancing the elections, he acted with restraint and responsibility. That for me was a very good sign.”

Dayan – himself a secular, if traditional Jew – is particularly appreciative of Bennett’s drive to widen the party’s appeal beyond its traditional “knitted kippa” support-base, by including more secular candidates in the party list. He estimates his selection as MK could gain the party as many as two seats from non-religious right-wing voters like him, who largely identify with the party’s values but may have felt alienated in the past due to its all-religious list.

And if the 2012 elections were anything to go by, he might not be far off. Despite the fact that back then Ayelet Shaked was the only secular candidate to receive a realistic spot on the party list, studies conducted by the party showed that roughly 5 of its 12 seats came from secular voters.

But what does he make of reservations voiced by some party members, who fear such moves for greater inclusiveness may cause the party itself to move away from its religious-Zionist values?

Dayan denies that would be a problem. All candidates – religious or not – must abide by the Jewish Home’s constitution, which enshrines religious-Zionist ideology as part of the party’s essential platform. Indeed, party members often quip that Shaked is one of their “most religious” MKs in terms of her voting record.

To illustrate, he recounts a recent meeting with prominent religious-Zionist figure and Jewish Home backer Rabbi Chaim Druckman, in which the latter gave his blessing to the veteran activist’s candidacy.

“He received me with exceptional warmth and publicly endorsed my candidacy. He told me that it’s a natural candidacy and that he hopes very much that I will be an MK for the Jewish Home.”

“We had a long discussion on matters of religion and state,” he recounts. “I am a team-player, and I will always – especially on these fundamental issues – abide by the position of the Jewish Home.”

In fact, one of his central missions as an MK will be to tackle what he says is a lack of Jewish values within secular Israeli society, among other issues. “I am extremely worried about the lack of Zionist and Jewish values in the non-religious education system,” he says.

Dayan also pledges to serve as an advocate for the rights of olim, a topic he is naturally “very attached to” – and particularly for Israel’s Ethiopian minority.

“My wife spent considerable time working with Ethiopian Jews in Addis Ababa during Operation Solomon, so this cause is very close to our hearts.”

But will the Jewish Home’s gain be a loss for the residents of Judea and Samaria, for whom he has been one of the very few effective advocates in international fora? Not so, says Dayan, vowing to do all he can to continue representing the people of the region.

“If I’m elected I will do the same thing – but with the political leverage of being an MK,” he promises. “And much more.”

December 25, 2014 | 10 Comments »

Subscribe to Israpundit Daily Digest

Leave a Reply

10 Comments / 10 Comments

  1. Being on the “shit list” of Israeli leaders of some of the prolific commentators here is equal to the who is who list of great Israelis. Oh well one mans sow’s ear is another silk purse or however the stupid expression goes.

    If memory serves me Ben Gurion, Begin, and now Yitzhak Shamir are all worthless leaders or worse to some. Life in the black hole of negativity must be rough.

  2. @ Ted Belman: I would also like it if

    Uzi Landau and Yair Shamir of Yisrael Beiteinu will bolt the party and come over to Bennett.

    Question is always who gets pushed down the ladder in the list? I think they are two Israelis with their heads pointed in the right direction.

  3. @ yamit82: I would be grateful to know how it could be that Uzi Landau, a graduate of MIT, could have been responsible for screwing up the Israeli natural gas ventures. Did he bring Noble into this. Why did not Israel simply retain ownership of it’s oil fields. Why is British Petroleum in The Gulf of Mexico and why is Noble Energy in Israel. How was Landau involved and please be specific.
    I agree with Ted that it would be significant if Laudau bolted The Lieberman sinking ship. I would like to see him working with Bennet. Netanyahu will have to decide whether to finally obey his constituency or bow out. I do not think he will be welcomed with open arms in Labor.
    Oh..and Dayan’s move to Jewish Home will hopefully make it more inclusive of secular Israelis, who respect MK Bennet and agree on sustantive issues, especially with regard to any further territorial concessions to the fakestinians.

  4. @ Ted Belman:
    What can I say to such a tirade — which may well correctly describe Yitzchak Shamir as prime minister, for all I knew? To me, he was and shall always be the Jewish terrorist leader of Lechi, which is mostly the kinds of Jews I always admired the most. That’s the spirit I picked up in all those Friday afternoon Zionist lectures and chess games I could never win, in the Rechavia apartment of Dr Yisrael Eldad in the summer of 1974.

    But I would like to ask Yamit if there is anybody in the Jewish leadership, present or past, who, in his opinion, best served the Jewish nation and the Jewish state, without licking the asses of all the Obamas. Kerrys, and others of similar kind? Or is the Jewish nation forever doomed to be manipulated by pickleheads who can do nothing right?

    And if the answer to all that is “pickleheads forever”, then what in hell do you people think you are accomplishing in Israel?

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  5. ArnoldHarris Said:

    Possibly the two you mention, presently part of Yisrael Beitenu have spectacular records in the Knesset.

    Like what??? They don’t have spectacular records, not at all.ArnoldHarris Said:

    Is Shamir a relative of the truly great Yitzchak Shamir?

    The Great Itzchak Shamir? The Guy who agreed to Madrid conference that led to Oslo Shamir?

    The Same Shamir who couldn’t put down the intifada in two years, Shamir? The Shamir who kept us buttoned up in our hoems with gasmasks and plastic sheetings for a month while Iraq played Russian Roulette with us? The Shamir who let Peres and Sharon manipulate him like a christmas toy? The Shamir who wrecked our economy and only the massive Rusian immigrations saved us.

    Get Real!!!!!!

  6. @ Ted Belman:

    They have no constituency or public support Landau screwed up the gas deals and Shamir????? He is quitting or fired from or by Lieberman any way and nobody knows him.

    Neither one will add much in the way of votes IMO.

  7. @ Ted Belman:
    Ted, I do not know how “huge” two seats jumped from one party to another would prove to be. Possibly the two you mention, presently part of Yisrael Beitenu have spectacular records in the Knesset. Is Shamir a relative of the truly great Yitzchak Shamir?

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI

  8. Before making any more day to day predictions, I want to see what the latest rounds of public opinion polls of likely Israeli voters show, in regard to the ongoing shifts of parties and personalities in this election. Many of us hope Bennett’s party will become the strongest, ahead of Netanyahu’s, but that might just be too much a stretch given the results of the most important poll of all — the last Knesset election.

    Having said that, I think the political dynamism in Israel is now firmly on the side of Jewish nationalism. And that suits me fine.

    Arnold Harris
    Mount Horeb WI