It’s been a while since so many political pundits have been as united as they were last week. The election campaign is decided even before it began, they all determined unanimously. Maariv’s Shalom Yerushalmi, for example, argued that the fact that the right has been hovering around 70 Knesset seats in all the polls, while the left has been barely scratching 50 seats, is a sure sign the campaign is over – end of discussion.

But the same pundits have been missing the campaign that’s raging within the two party blocks. On the left, it’s a struggle among Shelly Yachimovich, Tzipi Livni and Zehava Gal-On, alongside national heartthrob Yair Lapid; While on the right (for the sake of argument we’ll include the centrist, pro-retreat Likud-Beiteinu party in that block) Likud Beiteinu has given up its effort to attract votes from leftist parties and is focusing on HaBayit HaYehudi instead.


The Likud understands that the disappointed Religious Zionist public, which has been absorbing a lot of spittle over the past few years, is coming back home. This public has its own party now, with a fresh, young, educated leadership—many with an impressive military background—which is the most relevant and most attractive today. Suddenly the Likud is looking old fashioned. Moreover, the Likud now has taken on a worrisome appendix: former FM Avigdor Liberman, who munches vermin and creepy crawlers, who once compared the rabbinate institutions to the Church (“in Russia they used to say,” Liberman once quipped about the Rabbinate and rabbis in Israel, “the closer you get to the church, the bigger the stink.”)


The Likud with Liberman is no longer an option. Only a masochist would support a center party which over the last four years managed to disappoint the Eretz Israel loyalists at every turn. How can a faithful Jew vote for the party that led the violent expulsions in Migron (2011) and demolished Ulpana Hill (2012), a party that more than half the candidates on its current list for the next Knesset (up to the 40th spot) voted against any reasonable arrangement to prevent those inhumane displacements, and a significant number of its MKs supported the crime of “disengagement” in Gush Katif (displacing close to 10,000 Jews). How can we possibly bolster an anti-nationalist policy, defined by retired Judge Uri Shtruzman as “a different justice for terrorists and settlers,” meaning that in Israel the rights of terrorists are upheld religiously, while settlers’ claims aren’t even considered.

Only a masochist would vote for a party that expelled Jews from Yamit and the northern Sinai (1987), turned Hebron over to the Arabs (1998), froze construction in Jerusalem and in Judea and Samaria (2010), was responsible for the establishment of Hamastan in Gaza, for the rocket volleys on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and for abandoning the lives of civilians throughout the South? Who would give his vote to a party whose heads have tried twice to sell the Golan to both mass murderers Assad senior and junior, and almost managed to settle the Al Qaeda killers up there, within shooting range of T’veria and Tzfat? And who would vote for a party whose leader has surrendered to a directive by former deputy attorney general Mike Blass, enemy of the settlement movement, and informed the High Court that he would uproot Jewish families from Ezra House in Hebron?

In the Likud they read the polls and are shuddering. They’re starting to understand that the hookup with Liberman, and the voters’ deep disappointment, will hamper any chance of their recovering the outgoing Knesset list of 42 seats. And what truly drives them mad is the drainage of dejected Likud voters over to HaBayit HaYehudi. As the new magazine “SofHaShavua” (Weekend) put it in its gala issue: “This week the Likud lost a seat a day to the Jewish Home.”


It’s no wonder that Netanyahu’s own saying, on a different occasion, regarding his rivals: “They are F-R-I-G-H-T-E-N-E-D,” is coming back to haunt him now. Fear is a bad counsel. Because of their fear, Likud spokespersons have been spreading empty threats: “If Netanyahu won’t be strong enough, he would be forced to take into his coalition the extreme left and give them the defense portfolio. It’s a joke. It’s also a silly argument: none of the leftist parties possesses a suitable military icon, except for Livni’s Amram Mitzna, whose positions are rooted so far left, there’s a snowball’s chance in hell he’ll receive Defense. Who remains – Yair Lapid? Tzipi? In short, bobeh maises.

Last week, Netanyahu has actually outdone himself and—out of his fear of the continuing strengthening of Naftali Bennett at the Likud’s expense—he announced publicly the construction plan in Jerusalem and in other places. Except that, within the Likud, a senior minister told Maariv on Dec. 12 that all those declarations don’t hold water, and they’re intended solely for the sake of bringing back into the Likud’s bosom the voters who were drained over to Bennett.

But the typical Netanyahu maneuver will not work this time. Everyone remembers his celebrated declaration about constructing hundreds of new apartments as compensation for the demolished homes on Ulpana Hill. In reality, they haven’t even begun the planning stage. Everything was intended strictly as an election gimmick. It’s all talk. The voter has already learned that this is Netanyahu’s guiding principle: only talk. That’s the way it was with the Ulpana homes, and that, unfortunately, will be the case with the declarations about construction in Jerusalem. The Prime Minister’s Office even made sure to declare on Kol Israel radio that no new construction is being considered at the moment, and that it’s nothing more than a planning activity.

You can’t fool all the people all the time. It’s been years since the traditional, knitted yarmulke voter has learned that the gap between talk and action is a yawning 100 percent. That voter, to the chagrin of Likud-Beiteinu, is coming back home. The average voter has already seen the movie where they vote Likud only to receive a leftist government, and then look on in astonishment as Netanyahu and his buddies from the Cult of the Judiciary become—along with the court system—enslaved operators on behalf of B’Tzelem, Meretz, and Peace Now’s Yariv Openheimer, in their hostile actions against the settlements. The nationalistic voter has had enough of Likud’s selling of distinguished ministries, as well as control over the Rabbinate and its courts—namely the institutions deposited with shaping the state’s Jewish identity—to the sectorial party Shas, which views everything through the lens of its own, narrow interests, and amounts to little more than a submissive poodle in the lap of the Ashkenazi Haredim of Torah Judaism.

Maariv revealed last week that the Likud has created, probably out of panic, a special team, headed by Zeev Elkin and Tzipi Hotoveli, to attack and weaken the Jewish Home, with the active participation of Moshe Feiglin. Incidentally, Feiglin has been conducting a pointless offensive against the Jewish Home. Three months ago he called their voters “friarim” (suckers), except that, magically, ever since that rub, Jewish Home has only been increasing its strength (this week they stand at 13 seats in the polls). It turns out that the public is better than him at figuring out who’s on our side and who’s not. If I were Naftali Bennett, I would have sent a huge bouquet of flowers to Feiglin.

Last week, Feiglin, who only made it into the Likud Knesset list thanks to shady deals which let into the Knesset some of the settlement movement’s worst enemies, argued that only the Likud can do it (the ancient Likud slogan), saying: “Only a significant, faithful force within the governing party is clear and certain, and has already proven itself in the reality of the past four years.” If this accurate citation were not so sad, it would have been truly funny. Seriously, Mr. Feiglin? The very opposite is true, the exact opposite. There are six knitted yarmulke MKs in the outgoing Likud and Israel Beiteinu, and what have been their achievements? Zero. Nothing. Nada. Which means that Feiglin either wears pink lenses that keep him safe from reality, or spent the last four years abroad.


Here’s what the “significant, faithful force within the governing party” has done to us: the demolition of Migron, Gilad Farm and Ulpana Hill; vigorous resistance to the rightful Certification Law which could have prevented the shameful destruction; a celebrated embrace of the “two states for two nations” idea; the freezing of construction of an extra porch or children’s room in some faraway settlement; stopping Jewish (but not Arab) construction in Israel’s eternal capital; and a mighty enlistment to prevent the deportation of illegal foreign workers and their children.

Only the Likud was able to torpedo the move by MKs who are loyal to Jewish culture, and who adopted an initiative by leftist Professor Ruth Gabison, the former head of the Association for Civil Rights, to enact the status of Hebrew as the singular official language in Israel. Only Likud MKs have the capacity to lose all manner of pity when it comes to the children of settlers and to object to extending legislation intended to erase the criminal records of boys and girls arrested over their resistance to the Gush Katif disengagement. That shame list, including as many as six Elkins and Hotovelis, is long, painful, and disappointing. So why should we believe that a list containing six Feiglins and Hotovelis, who have made it this time into the top 40 slots, would be able to do better than their six predecessors in the outgoing Knesset? we’ve seen that movie, too, and we know their ability to influence things is below zero.

And so, the head of the team dedicated to besmirching the Jewish Home, Tzipi Hotoveli, has started to sell “lokshen,” boasting that the Edmond Levy team was created by Netanyahu in order to replace the Outposts report of Talya Sasson. Except that Hotoveli failed to mention that Netanyahu is yet to adopt the Levy report (that recommended applying Israeli law in the Jewish settlements. It’s amazing to realize the Likud is taking credit for not doing anything).

We’ve seen already what a strong Likud is able to do to Religious Zionism. Now our aim should be to take big bites out of its side in favor of HaBayit HaYehudi, and not fall for the fact that the next Likud list will also include some Feiglins, Hotovelis and Elkins – whose influence over Netanyahu, as we’ve mentioned already, is lesser than that of the decorative plant in his office.

Recently, we’ve learned that our public is not as dumb as some think it is, and won’t fall for delusional statements intended strictly for vote getting. The National Religious public believes that there is only one choice: between a coalition of Netanyahu with Shelly Yachimovich and Yair Lapid, who would steer his wheel strongly to the left; or a coalition that includes a strong Jewish Home to save Netanyahu from himself, and help him steer to the right, which is precisely the direction the voters are sending the next coalition government.


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Born in Tel Aviv in 1943. Graduated Bar Ilan University (Political Science and History) and Haifa University (Political Science). Chaired the Maariv political desk for 24 years. Married with children and grandchildren. Living in Raanana.


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