When the 2013 election campaign opened, the young new chairman of HaBayit HaYehudi Party Naftali Bennett was a rather unknown politician who, within a fairly short time, succeeded in making the waning religious party trendy among young secular people. By employing upbeat and positive slogans in the spirit of “something new is in the air” and “Bennett is your bro,” HaBayit HaYehudi was able to win hearts while downplaying the radical right-wing figures on its slate. The election campaign focused to a great extent on Jewish tradition, family values and the cost of living in the zeitgeist of the social protest, with a promise of a better future. The result was a huge success: 12 seats that turned Bennett into a political powerhouse.
Barely two years have passed since then, and 2015 Bennett is a totally different person. Championing an aggressive and nationalistic campaign, he relates not only to the diplomatic context vis-a-vis the Palestinians, but also to the issue of Arab Israelis. To date, this issue has been more associated with Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, the chairman of the Yisrael Beitenu Party. Bennett’s Feb. 8 “thieves speech” at Tel Aviv University and the subsequent uproar it sparked is another expression of the nationalistic hallmarks of HaBayit HaYehudi’s current election campaign.