If things at the Likud stay the way they appear today, we should all start getting used to saying “MK Moshe Feiglin.” The relentless and almost disturbingly patient leader of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction in the Likud, has finally managed to get himself elected—and stay elected—into a realistic spot on the combined Likud-Israel Beiteinu list.
Feiglin, who started his political path as leader of a civil disobedience movement against the Oslo Accords, back in 1994, realized fairly early on that there was a kind of perpetual dichotomy taking place within Israel’s largest right-wing party. When you go to Likud events – after joining the Likud party in 2000 he would tell anyone who would listen – you see a sea of yarmulkes and headscarves in the audience, while the dais is populated with non-observers.
Above and beyond his own candidacy for the Knesset, Feiglin sought to alter this insufferable imbalance, encouraging fellow frumies, many, but not all of them, from the “wrong” side of the green line, to register as Likud members and start voting for religious candidates.
One would think that a candidate who brings in thousands of new potential voters would be welcomed with a warm embrace, but the fact is that Feiglin and his highly organized camp were greeted as a kind of Mongol invasion. In fact, Limor Livnat, today minister of culture & sport, once called Feiglin’s movement “a hostile takeover of the Likud.” And party chief Benjamin Netanyahu outmaneuvered the “Feiglins” at least twice so far, using his prerogative as chairman to drop the candidate’s name from his rightfully-earned realistic spot to the political dungeon that lurks beyond the 40th spot.
Now that he’s won the 15th spot on the Likud list in yesterday’s primaries, MK hopeful Moshe Feiglin told Army Radio that his relationship with the prime minister has improved. “The PM and I are in the same movie,” he said, using an Israeli colloquialism meaning on the same page. “The relationship is good, I intend to cooperate with the prime minister, the prime minister believes in democracy and in that which the Likud represents – and so it will be.”
He added: “The Likud has a list that represents Israel’s society in its entirety, it is a realistic list which will continue the good works of the Netanyahu government.”
Of course, those ‘good works’ included a period of a housing freeze in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, the uprooting of two whole neighborhoods, and a pitifully indecisive campaign against the Hamas in Gaza which ended with the legitimization of the terrorist government and with no strategic gains for Israel. But Feiglin is hopeful:
“The entire public in this country has become more nationalist,” he said. “Those loony notions of the Oslo accords which have led to the shelling of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – the public has sobered up from them.”
Late last night, Netanyahu shared his regret over the fact that ministers Beni Begin and Dan Meridor have not been elected to a spot within the top-20 (Likud is sharing the slate with FM Avigdor Liberman’s Israel our Home 15-member list in an alternate-feed method, so that the Likud candidate who reached the first spot after Netanyahu, Education Minister Gideon Sa’ar, will be in spot number 3, after Liberman, and the next Likudnik will be in spot number 5, after Liberman’s number 2. It’s called the “zipper” system…). Netanyahu also promised to invite both Begin and Meridor to serve as ministers in his new government even if they aren’t Knesset Members.
The law permits Israeli prime ministers to include anyone they wish in ministerial positions, provided they receive a vote of confidence from the Knesset. But practical considerations, such as awarding ministries to coalition partners—who in turn use them to create patronage positions for their followers—usually prevent the proliferation of ministers who are not elected members of Knesset.
Take THAT, constitutional separation of powers…
Accordingly, Feiglin told Army Radio this morning that he didn’t think Netanyahu would make good on his promise to Begin and Meridor, mostly because, in the end, he will have to respect the public sentiment that sent them home.
Dan Meridor has been associated with the left wing of the party, and was extremely useful to Netanyahu in dealing with the center and even left-of-center. But, as Feiglin has observed, the Likud membership has made it extremely difficult for the prime minister to try and establish a coalition with, say, Labor.
Beny Begin is as right-wing as they come, but it has been speculated that the role he has played in the negotiations with settlers destined to be uprooted, when he advocated an obedience to the decisions of the High Court, no matter how unjust and how pro-Arab those decisions may have been, has lost Begin any support he may have had among voters who would otherwise agree with him ideologically.
The Feiglin warm and fuzzy talk about supporting his leader, Netanyahu, shows the Jewish Leadership champion’s political maturity more than it represents a sincere pledge of allegiance, as, I’m sure Netanyahu is well aware. Feiglin’s voters sent him to the Knesset to torpedo Netanyahu’s attempts to comply with the White House’s demands for a new settlement housing freeze, and to encourage the prime minister to leave behind his public—albeit tacit—support of a 2-state solution.
It is also interesting to observe the proliferation of religious politicians—men and women—who are now an inseparable part of the Likud leadership, and who have earned their spots on the Top-20 list. Although they are not part of Jewish Leadership, it is conceivable that they owe their new status to Feiglin’s relentless efforts.
Indeed, it is quite possible that the next Netanyahu government will not live out its four years in power, and Netanyahu might find himself in the same spot that his predecessor Ariel Sharon did on the eve of the uprooting of the Jewish towns and villages of the Gaza Strip – and abandon the Likud in favor of a new, center-left party a la Kadima.
About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.
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