On the first day of school, Education Minister Naftali Bennett is under attack from his erstwhile nemesis, MK Tzipi Livni (Zionist Union), who fought with him on a regular basis in the previous government, in which they were both ministers.
Livni attended the opening day of school at the Yahad school in Modiin, which caters to all streams of Judaism. She used the occasion as an opportunity to take issue with recent statements by Bennett, who recently opined that strengthening Jewish identity – not weakening it – was the way to achieve more tolerance in society toward non-mainstream groups, sometimes referred to as “the other.”
"The Minister of Education said that 'the other does not have to be me' and I agree that one cannot and should not erase the unique identities that exist here in this land,” she stated. “We tried the melting pot approach and it did not work, and only caused damage that will take generations to undo.
"However, Bennett is forgetting the other side of the equation,” she explained. “The other does not need to be me, but the other has to respect the 'me', to respect his heritage, to respect his language, and following the proliferation of cases of racism and hatred this summer, we must teach that the other needs not be a frightening, incited and besmirched enemy. Alongside beefing up mathematics studies, it is important that we first teach the children to be human beings.”
Livni wished the schoolchildren a year of “quiet and peace,” in which they will be able to fulfill any dream they want to, and not forgetting her feminist voter base, added that “to the girls, especially, I want to say that this is your right, too, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise. Shana Tova.”
Bennett said last month that paradoxically, in order to reduce the gaps in society, “one needs to deepen his personal identity. If I study my identity as an Israeli, as a Jew, in depth, and I am at peace with this identity, I do not need to fear meeting a person who is different, respecting him, appreciating him, working alongside him,” Bennett said. "We need to respect identity while advancing tolerance.”
Livni was justice minister in the previous government, and was in charge of negotiations with the Palestinian Authority, a position that placed her in direct confrontation with Bennett's nationalist line. The last elections placed her in the Opposition benches, while her seat at the justice Ministry has been filled by Ayelet Shaked, number two in Bennett's party.