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Can the Likud Survive without the ‘Feinschmeckers’?

In depth analysis of the Likud's final list for the Knesset (part II in a series).

Likud MK Benny Begin did not make it to the top 20 spots on the Knesset list.

Likud MK Benny Begin did not make it to the top 20 spots on the Knesset list.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

This is the second entry in an in depth series about the composition of the Likud’s list of candidates for the Knesset. Yesterday’s entry discussed the fact that the Israeli media were quick to condemn the Likud’s rightward shift, but in fact of the first 25 of the Likud’s list (the candidates who are likely to be in the Knesset), 20 are members of the current Likud Knesset faction, three were required to be new faces,and the two other new candidates, Moshe Feiglin and Tzachi HaNegbi, who are both familiar faces to the Likud, balance each other out ideologically. So the Likud faction in the upcoming Knesset and the last are pretty much the same.

The big shock, to the media at least, was the fact that Benny Begin, Mickey Eitan and Dan Meridor – whom Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Liberman once labeled the Likud’s ‘Feinschmeckers’ – did not achieve realistic spots. But can it be claimed the Likud won’t be the Likud without them?

Well for one thing, the Likud was the Likud without Meridor and Begin for about a decade. Both of them left the party, each for different reasons (Meridor was finance minister and left over a disagreement about the Shekel exchange rate in 1997 while Begin left to found the Herut party in protest of Netanyahu’s executing the Hevron withdrawal and continuing with the Oslo process).

It should also be noted that Begin didn’t do that poorly in the primaries, he ranked 22nd on the national part of the list, but was bumped back to number 38 on the list because of all the spots reserved for geographic districts and certain demographics. What was surprising about Begin was that he had been number five in 2008 and now dropped so many spaces.

But this was a different election than in 2008, where every Knesset Member feared for his political future, new candidates from Kadima and Moshe Feiglin, who was expected to win a spot in the top 20, were introduced into the mix.

That Begin did as well as he did is surprising given that he has been completely inactive politically. He has no aides. He does not do political events. He does not register Likud members. Nor has he been very active or vocal publicly for the last few years (though in fairness to him, he had health problems). In any political system, even a ‘Likud prince’ like Benny Begin needs to campaign and he didn’t.

Begin also came out against “Hok Hasdarah” saying he was against “bypassing” the High Court of Justice, adopting the Leftist position about the supremacy of the Supreme Court, despite the lack of a constitution and the principle of “parliamentary supremacy” (according to which parliament is the supreme lawmaking body).

This earned him a bad reputation among the Likud’s ideological membership, but that didn’t seal his fate. He could have received sufficient support elsewhere, but he didn’t campaign. And again, despite that, he still managed to score 21, 600 votes – more than twice what was needed to win in 2008 – and rank 22nd among the national candidates. The difference between him and Carmel Shama HaCohen, the last ‘national’ candidate to get a secure spot, was a mere 230 votes.

Nevertheless, the loss of Begin would be a blow to the Likud. Begin is a powerful and respected voice against Palestinian statehood, so if he were again offered to be a minister-without-portfolio that would be good for the Likud and the country.

But remember, it was that opposition to Palestinian statehood that led people to say in 2008 that his rejoining of the Likud had made the Likud too extreme. For example, here is an Arutz Sheva interview with Dan Meridor, where Meridor is asked if he would be able to work with Begin despite their sharp disagreement regarding Palestinian statehood. Meridor tries to smooth over those disagreements, but acknowledges that they exist.

It is therefore quite disingenuous now for pundits to claim that Likud without Begin is an extremist Likud, when they claimed that the Likud with Begin was an extremist Likud.

Like Begin, Meridor was not politically active. I met his chief of staff once. The meeting did not go well. He made insulting comments, stating that only an “abel” (apparently Arabic pejorative for mentally disabled) “doesn’t believe we’re giving them [the Palestinians] something [a state],” that was not long after my associate and I had politely informed him that we represented a more nationalist group. Going into the meeting, we knew Meridor’s politics, but we thought we might find common ground on other issues. The way Meridor’s Chief of Staff handled it was just bad politics. If that was an example of Meridor’s political strategy, it’s no surprise that he lost.

Eitan was also not very active politically until after the elections for the Central Committee in January 2011. It was then that he proposed cancelling primaries in favor having a Central-Committee-like body choose the Likud’s list and announced his candidacy for the presidency of the Likud’s ‘Convention’ (that election, in which Eitan, Danon and Netanyahu were to compete has still never been held). The proposal to cancel primaries alone should be reason enough for Likud members to punish him at the polls. Why should they vote for someone who wants to strip them of their right to vote?

In the previous primaries, both Eitan and Meridor barely made it into the Knesset. They were 16 and 17 on the list, which was at the edge of the national portion of the list, before the demographic and district spots, which began at number 20.

They were also the only Likud faction members to publicly endorse Palestinian statehood aside from the Prime Minister. It’s one thing for the Prime Minister and Party Chairman, who was facing tremendous pressure from the United States, to endorse Palestinian statehood and get a free pass, it’s another for politically inactive MKs, who were not that popular to begin with.

Even if their backing of Palestinian statehood were the reason they lost, that wouldn’t be a case of the Likud shifting rightward, but of the Likud refusing to shift leftward. But again, political inactivity, a lack of sustained campaigning, is more likely the reason for their failure.

But what about the other five Likud MKs who were part of the current faction and the fact that they won’t appear in the next Knesset? What about those Kadima MKs who joined the Likud but did not succeed? What conclusions be drawn about their absence? That will be the subject of tomorrow’s entry.

About the Author: Daniel Tauber is a frequent contributor to various prominent publications, including the Jewish Press, Arutz Sheva, Americanthinker.com, the Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. Daniel is also an attorney admitted to practice law in Israel and New York and received his J.D. from Fordham University School of Law. You can follow him on facebook and twitter.


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10 Responses to “Can the Likud Survive without the ‘Feinschmeckers’?”

  1. Charlie Hall says:

    " adopting the Leftist position about the supremacy of the Supreme Court,".

    What is the problem with this? An independent judiciary is essential to a free society, as our sages wrote quite clearly and as Alexander Hamilton wrote more recently in the Federalist Papers. One of the first acts of tyrants from Lenin to Hitler to Morsi is to eliminate an independent judiciary. Remember that Germany, with parliamentary supremacy, voted Hitler dictatorial powers!

  2. Charlie Hall says:

    Correction: German voters did not vote Hitler dictatorial powers: It was the Reichstag, Germany's parliament. This is is the kind of disaster that unchecked parliamentary supremacy can produce.

  3. The problem is a extreme left anti – religious majority of supreme court judges!

  4. Zachary Kessin says:

    The other problem here is that the Court basically appoints itself, so you end up with a bit of a legal monoculture

  5. Charlie Hall says:

    The Beit Din Hagadol in talmudic times also appointed itself. I guess the people who designed Israel's court system relied exclusively on Jewish sources and not on external influences such as the US Constitution.

  6. Zachary Kessin says:

    Problem is that the Chief Justice tends to appoint people who agree with him (her), and that continues over time

  7. The country is shifting hard to the Right, so a left-wing court is not a terrible thing. But in normal times, the appointment process is too skewed. The fact that Aharon Barak prevented Ruth Gavison from being appointed is illuminating.

  8. The judiciary should be independent in its rulings. When political philosophers talk about an independent judiciary they don't mean a court that chooses itself. The US for instance has an independent judiciary, but its members are chosen by the political branches. The process of judicial selection in Israel was not based on Jewish sources. At the time the political system was so bias towards the Left that even Menachem Begin/Herut wanted the current system. Also, the first court has a range of judges including a religious judge and one who was considered a Herut sympathizer. Overtime the selection process has led a very bias make up of the Supreme Court.

    In any case, the judiciary is supposed to apply the law. If the legal situation changes after the judiciary rules, then the judiciary follows the new legal situation. That doesn't mean the judiciary is not independent, it means that parliament is supreme.

    Even then one could argue that the Supreme Court could overturn laws that are so fundamentally anti-democratic, but that's not the situation that was being debated regarding "hok hasdarah" – the debate (or part of it at least) was whether parliament could pass a law after a Supreme Court ruling that would mean what the Court originally ordered would not be done. Legally and democratically, the answer is yes, because the parliament would not be overriding the court, but changing the legal situation and hence the court would change its opinion. Let's look at it from another angle: what if in the US, the Supreme Court overruled ObamaCare – would it be appropriate for the Congress to change the language of the ObamaCare legislation such that it would work and be constitutional – of course it could and that would be fine from a democratic-legal standpoint.

  9. Charlie Hall says:

    In Federalist #78, Alexander Hamilton makes a convincing case that an independent judiciary with the power to void acts of the legislature was essential to a free society with limited government. Would that more US states had listened to him; judicial elections have tarnished the judiciary all over the US.

  10. If the people don't trust the judges, there is no point in having judges.

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