Voice of reason
Amid the current polarisation in and about Israel, Naftali Bennett is a much-needed calming voice of reason.
Those who saw him this week heard a man who loves his country and the Jewish people fiercely, a man whose intellect is matched by his humility, a man who dearly wants to see Israel emerge from its current quagmire, and believes in the ability of its people to come together to see that done.
Bennett spoke passionately about Israel and its roles at the centre of the Jewish world and as a light among the nations. He was equally passionate about the need for dialogue to solve its issues.
But he wasn’t just preaching. He has walked the walk in working with ideological foes when he led the most diverse government in Israel’s history, the first to include an Arab party.
When someone with his level of knowledge, experience and insight speaks, we should listen.
His analysis of what is driving the fragmentation of Israeli society was spot-on. Bennett did not lay blame, conceding that people on both sides had a right to feel aggrieved.
He dealt objectively with the need for judicial reform and set the record straight that Israelis of all persuasions are joining the ongoing protests.
Humbly, Bennett even spoke of learning from his own prior prejudices.
We can all learn from his realisation that those with different political views “love Israel just the way I do, not one gram less” and are “not less patriotic than I am”.
That lesson applies not just to those shouting across the divide at each other in Israel but here in our community too. They are sorely needed words at a time when some Australian Jews point fingers at others and denigrate their level of commitment to Israel for daring to express concern over aspects of policy.
It was a privilege to hear Bennett speak. And while his words hit their mark in Australia, it is a loss to Israeli politics and public debate that he is no longer speaking them in the Knesset.
He has previously expressed a desire to return to politics – and whoever leads Israel in the future, they would do well to have Naftali Bennett at the table.