Benjamin Netanyahu’s triumph was really a victory for his allies.
For the sixth time, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister has led his party to the top of the polls and appears set to return to the job.
But Likud barely increased its vote share in this election. The true winner was the far-right and its leaders, Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.
Across Israel, nearly half-a-million people voted for the Religious Zionist bloc and sent over a dozen of its members into the Knesset.
Never in the Jewish state’s history has hatred wielded such power.
To be clear: this newspaper’s concern is not that Netanyahu himself is on the cusp of a dramatic return. Yes, many British Jews oppose him – for his West Bank annexation plan, say, or the fraud and corruption allegations he faces – but many others support him in this country as a strong, conservative voice.
Few members of our community agree with Ben-Gvir or Smotrich – and the fact is the political marriage between these two men was concocted by Netanyahu.
He did it to maximise his electoral chances but he may have unleashed a beast he cannot control. Religious Zionism has attracted a diverse voter base: it includes young Charedim who have had enough of their rabbis instructing them on who to vote for and West Bank settlers driven to despair over the security situation. It also includes extremists who have shown they are quite prepared to take the law into their own hands.
Over the coming months we will likely see Israel do things that, if it were any other country, we would condemn without hesitation.
Religious Zionism wants a law that gives Netanyahu a Get Out of Jail Free card. They would annul those charges of fraud and breach of trust by ending his trial.
If Minister Ben-Gvir were to visit this country, anyone who agrees to meet him runs the risk of legitimising hatred. What will the Board of Deputies do, or the Jewish Leadership Council?
Ben-Gvir could soon be Public Security Minister. He would make soldiers and police officers immune from prosecution and allow them to use more live fire in confrontations with Palestinians and Arab Israelis.
There are now difficult questions for us in Britain to answer. If Minister Ben-Gvir were to visit this country, anyone who agrees to meet him runs the risk of legitimising hatred. What will the Board of Deputies do, or the Jewish Leadership Council? What about Ben-Gvir’s hypothetical ministerial counterpart – the Home Secretary, perhaps?
As the election results rolled in, the bodies that represent UK Jewry kept an uneasy silence. Perhaps they were hoping the few remaining votes to be counted will swing the result away from the Netanyahu camp and towards another political stalemate.
That is a futile dream. Hatred is already in the Knesset and may well prop up the next Israeli government. It is not befitting this country that many of us love and many of us pray for.
The time has come for us to consider our own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which we have all been wrestling for perhaps too long.
That is why this newspaper loudly denounced the far-right’s surge a fortnight ago. That is why we now call on our community’s leaders to show similar resolve.
If that must mean a fundamental change to our relationship with Israel’s government, so be it.
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.