In a motion for the agenda on the cost of housing, I asked Housing Minister Uri Ariel why he does not approve the many building plans waiting for his authorization. According to the letter of the law, they are waiting for nothing more than his signature. “If we are not building in Jerusalem,” I said, “perhaps we would be better off in the Opposition. Then at least the national camp would protest against the leftist government…”
At the podium, the minister endorsed all of the information that had been publicized in the Makor Rishon publication, and even added that a construction moratorium is in place in the entire Judea and Samaria region – in addition to Jerusalem. It is unthinkable that a prime minister from Likud and a housing minister from the Jewish Home Party are not building in Jerusalem. What forces are at work here?
Two insights come to light from this situation:
The first is that if we do not fight for Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount, we lose it in Jerusalem and throughout the land. “He who rules the Mount rules the land,” explained poet Uri Zvi Greenberg. But the religious-Zionist “guardians of the walls” have a hard time with struggles over principles. “You are making my life complicated with your Temple Mount,” a young, dominant and energetic religious Zionist said to me. “I am used to talking about strategic advantages, about demography and water sources. I don’t have any of those on the Temple Mount – just pure and simple faith.”
On the Temple Mount, we don’t have red-roofed homes and kindergartens that are part and parcel of the familiar Zionist experience. We don’t have the natural sense of justice in the face of mothers and children being dragged from their homes. We don’t have the bulldozers threatening to uproot us from the roots that we have put down in the land of our forefathers. We don’t have all that is common to us and the Zionist experience. On the Temple Mount, we are bare of all of that, left with nothing but our primordial faith.
The religious Zionist leadership drew its fortitude from its faith. But it drew the legitimacy for settlement from the Zionist leadership, both from the post-1967 Labor settlement movement and Begin, Shamir and Sharon in the 1980s.
The Zionist momentum ended in the nineties. There is no more legitimacy, from both the Left and the Right, for settlement in Judea and Samaria. When it internalized the new reality, the religious Zionist leadership began cutting its losses, focusing on the remnants of the values around which a consensus could still be developed: natural growth, security needs, and the like. The ideological momentum that gives birth to pioneering settlement migrated to the “hilltop youth” – who derive their legitimacy from faith and not from the Zionist leadership.
Nothing defies Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount – and over the entire Land of Israel – more than the fact that the prime minister allows the Muslim wakf to decide which representative of Israeli sovereignty (the Knesset) will or will not enter the site. Upon barring me from the Temple Mount, the prime minister left me no choice but to activate the bit of political power that I have: I absolved myself of coalition discipline. All the expulsions and disengagements are not nearly as serious as the horror currently taking place on the Temple Mount. But because of the Zionist/faith-based dissonance bound up at the site of the Temple, the coalition’s Land of Israel lobby did not join my struggle. When we gave up on the Temple Mount, we also gave up on Mount Gilo (on the outskirts of Jerusalem).
My second insight is that it is vital to develop national leadership consciousness and to strive for it at any price.
The Temple Mount and construction in Jerusalem are no less important to Uri Ariel than they are to me. But for him, the existing Zionist leadership, be it Left or Right, is the only reality whereby it is possible to act to advance his beliefs. He does not even consider trying to challenge the prime minister by authorizing construction permits because he assumes that in that scenario, the prime minister will not give in but will exchange the Jewish Home Party for Shas or any other substitute party. As the religious Zionist leadership has no alternative to the existing leadership and does not harbor a true aspiration to create such an alternative, its consciousness is simply not there. This forces the religious Zionist leadership to constantly shrink into those expanses in which it is still possible to achieve tactical accomplishments – in the name of values that are in the consensus – while surrendering on the strategic plane.
In this way, since the end of the Zionist momentum in the ‘90s, we find ourselves winning the battles but losing the war, while the Left loses the battles but continues to actualize its strategic goals.
We are in power, but are no longer building in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria.
The Left is in the opposition, but its ideology has become Israel’s political vision and is being implemented by the government.
The only way to advance with the historic process of the return to Zion is to derive our legitimacy from faith and to aim for leadership.
About the Author: Moshe Feiglin is the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset and a member of Israel's Security and Defense Committee. He heads the Manhigut Yehudit ("Jewish Leadership") faction of Israel's governing Likud party. He is the founder of Manhigut Yehudit and Zo Artzeinu and the author of two books: "Where There Are No Men" and "War of Dreams." Feiglin served in the IDF as an officer in Combat Engineering and is a veteran of the Lebanon War. He lives in Ginot Shomron with his family.
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