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The Unknown Soldiers of the Israeli Right

In these days of candidates, spinsters, and strategists, it’s comforting to know that there are people of action, known only to those who must know, swimming against the current of self-interest.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the Knesset.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressing the Knesset.
Photo Credit: Miriam Alster/FLASH90

When I last spoke with “S.” in the Knesset, he was eager to talk about the  recent achievements of the squads of activists, anonymous to the general public, the ones who work with the best and most industrious MK’s, and who remain anonymous because of this work.  “What, we don’t deserve some appreciation?” he asked.

Usually they don’t get any, as they have no time to advertise themselves.

I would like to take this opportunity, then, to write a few words about the anonymous soldiers who operate the system behind legislation, land purchases, and the like.

One such anonymous activist, originally from Kibbutz Kfar Etzion, is the treasurer of a large organization involved in settling Judea and Samaria.  He has backup in the form of a towering colleague who does his work not at the Knesset, but at government ministries.  He moves around their halls familiarly, exhibiting greater expertise than the ministers and brandishing an encyclopedic knowledge covering virtually every hill beyond the Green Line.

Yet the real strength of this dynamic duo, residents of the mountains of Shiloh, is in their quiet ability to crunch numbers into magical combinations of the ethereal and the corporeal: ethereal numbers of primary voters whose power they wield upon corporeal politicians.  “In their hands,” commented an MK with humorous reference to the Yom Kippur prayers, “we are like clay in the hands of the sculptor.”

Another is known as the “high priest,” the great redeemer of lands in Jerusalem, who is exceeded sometimes only by his disciple D., an elite IDF commando officer.  In the hands of the high priest, the shoulders of any politician quickly turn to putty when he begins to jostle them–quite literally.  Only Bibi no longer gets the treatment, due to his body guards.  I, for my part, have learned to put some distance between us when he starts speaking …

Next there is the “wandering Jew,” once a lieutenant colonel in an elite IDF unit, now a resident of the Mount of Olives, traveling through Jerusalem on his bicycle, picking the political dealers, placing them in his olive press, squeezing out whatever pure oil they have to offer, and putting it all in the menorah (candelabra) of Torah and settlement of the Land of Israel.

Then there is the happy mother (of eleven, so far), her ear eternally sporting not an earing but a dangling telephone as she stitches up the next political deal.

And there are the youths from the settlements and outposts who come visiting, exhibiting a better understanding of economics and policy than the government bureaucrats with whom they meet.

In the halls of the Knesset there is no shortage of lobbyists making a profit off of crony capitalism.  They’re readily identifiable in the cafeteria, whispering amongst themselves, organizing, brokering.  Many are party insiders, using their political abilities to help those in business link up with those in power.  The greatest of them—“the mixer,” as he called himself in a moment of candor—was exposed at the end of the Olmert trial, trying to protect his associate to the bitter end.  He and the other big fish don’t bother with visits to the Knesset anymore.  They send agents, or else have the legislators themselves meet them at fancy restaurants elsewhere.

So it bears appreciation that there also are people whose aim is to use their abilities for the benefit of the public, not to aggrandize themselves, even though they are able, sharp, and industrious enough to make off the way the self-interested lobbyists do.

What the altruistic lobbyists do is a big deal.  Lobbying is very delicate, painstaking work.  It requires knowledge of both the interests behind the lobbying and the interests of the target, a parliamentary committee member or other official who must be made to provide the goods.  The tricks of the trade are well-guarded secrets, and those in the know are not rushing to expose them … which is why they will not be exposed here …

Also to be left a secret is the chain of action and advocacy that ends in an accomplishment, like a land purchase in Judea and Samaria. For our purposes, just consider all the tasks that the anonymous activists had to complete: locating the landowner, raising funds, delivering the money, often coordinating with ministers in the run-up to a cabinet meeting.  In general, the people doing this quiet work are not interested in being Knesset members or ministers.  What they are doing now is what matters to them.

Perhaps the ultimate example is Rabbi Yehuda Hazani, who fell from a cliff in the Judean Desert twenty years ago, was the greatest of the leaders of Gush Emunim: humble, scholarly, and invisible to the general public.  The masses of people who participated in the movements to new settlement sites and the huge marches in Judea and Samaria that Hazani initiated or coordinated had no idea of who was pulling the strings.

In these days of candidates, spinsters, and strategists, it’s comforting to know that there are people following in the anonymous but great footsteps of Yehuda Hazani.  People of action, known only to those who must know, swimming against the current of self-interest.

A version of this article was originally published in Makor Rishon (Hebrew), August 2012, translated from Hebrew by David B. Greenberg.

About the Author: Lt.-Col. (ret.) Meir Indor is CEO of Almagor Terror Victims Association. In his extended career of public service, he has worked as a journalist, founded the Libi Fund, Sar-El, Habaita, among many other initiatives, and continues to lend his support to other pressing causes of the day.


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