I ran into Moshe Feiglin at the end of the 1990s when I was covering the Temple Convention, an annual get together of groups on the far fringe of the Israeli right that want to build the Third Temple now, if not yesterday. In the lobby, Feiglin was passing out bumper stickers for his organization, Jewish Leadership. I asked whether the current leaders of Israel weren’t Jewish. He answered with a smirk that suggested, “You know better than that.”
Soon after that, Feiglin and company decided on a new strategy for their radical group: They would seek to take over the Likud. It was a crafty decision. A well-organized group acting as a block can have an outsized influence in internal party elections. Feiglin encouraged his supporters to become Likud members. (There was no need for them to vote for the party of the mainstream right in general elections.)
Feiglin is patient. In 2003, the Likud chose its list of candidates for the Knesset in its infamous central committee. Feiglin ended up far down the list, at number 41. Then the Central Elections Committee disqualified him as a candidate, because he had a conviction for sedition, a crime of moral turpitude which carried a seven-year ban from elected office.
He didn’t give up. Benjamin Netanyahu doesn’t want him in the party. Netanyahu, whose expertise is marketing, wants to brand the Likud as a centrist party, though his own political goals amount to permanent Israeli rule over disenfranchised Palestinians (with some sweet nothings about “economic peace” thrown in).
I admit to feeling sorry for Netanyahu. As hard-line as he is, his views don’t come near the straightforward fascism promoted by Feiglin. An article on Jewish Leadership’s English website called “Is Democracy Jewish?” asserts the superiority of the organic nation over Western individualism, and posits the need for political “unification” in place of open debate. Elsewhere on the site, the group endorses all-out discrimination against Arabs in the workplace. Jewish Leadership’s Hebrew site is under repairs right now. In the past, it proposed a constitution for Israel that included a rabbinic council that, ayatollah-like, would have to approve all government decisions.
The results of the Likud primary yesterday suggest that patience and organization have payed off. Feiglin is No. 20 on the Likud list for the Knesset. Unless the party collapses in the next two months, he’ll be a member of parliament. Moreover, as sundry reports have pointed out, Feiglin successfully put the most right-leaning candidates high on the Likud list, cutting deals with sundry politicians.
Netanyahu is the candidate for prime minister; Feiglin controls the party. Both of them know it. The question is whether the electorate knows or cares. If it does, the primary will mark the moment when Bibi lost the election. If not, the election will mark Feiglin’s next victory.
6 thoughts on “Bibi as Feiglin’s Figurehead”
I once suggested to Feiglin that if he has 2000 people who are willing to shell out dues as members for a party so as to take it over, it would have been much cheaper that inside of the Likud, to take over Meretz.
instead (not inside)
Israel deserves leadership that will put the coutry first and not subcontract its defence to the PA or the UN. 15 years after Oslo, Israel has emerged as a weakened and disrespected entity, much like the Israel of early 1967. The events of Akko suggest an emboldened Arab minority ready to shrug off Jewish rule in pre 1967 Israel. Why not Feiglin? We have already tried everything else and it hasnt worked
Your assertion that “Feiglin controls the party” is ridiculous. Of the nearly 100,000 members of the Likud, something like 9000 identify with “Manhigut Yehudit” (Jewish Leadership). You should know that many people who support the views of what you call “the Far Right” (i.e. oppose creating a Palestinian state, oppose dismantling any Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria, support a greater role for Jewish tradition in public life and education)
strongly oppose Feiglin and his group. As a matter of fact, I would say a large majority oppose them. Sure there is an overlap on ideological matters, but there is strong opposition to his joining the Likud in the first place, there is opposition to the way his group operates, there is strong opposition to the alliances they make, etc, etc.
In any event, Feiglin’s influence in the party will be negligible, he will be marginalized. The real power is not with the Knesset members , it is in the Cabinet and he has no chance of ever entering it, unless of course, he decides to sell out to the Estblishment. Netanyahu will choose the Cabinet and he will put Leftists like Meridor and Peled in, or others like Silvan Shalom and Limor Livnat who supported Sharon’s destruction of Gush Katif (as Bibi himself did until a moment before when he opportunistically resigned, so that he could be all things to all people).
I find it amusing that you worry about “right-wing extremists”, but you have no problem with Left-wing extremists. Yuli Tamir, who is working hard to destroy the education system is a post-Zionist, she is in the Labor Party, yet I don’t hear anybody claim she should be removed for being an “extremist”. Avrum Burg, also a post-Zionist was never accused of being an extrmist, even while he was going around slandering Israel and the Jewish people.
I suggest you all stay calm. Begin was also accused of being a “fascist” and he gave away the Sinai and ended up being a darling of the Left. Thus, things often work out in ways different than you think.
How relevant is this Likud program still today?
(I can’t read Hebrew or Russian, so their web site is useless for me.)
There’s also a quite apt, if unintentional denouncement of the political culture, on http://www.jewishisrael.org/jewish_leadership/who.htm:
“Already today, Manhigut Yehudit (The Jewish Leadership Movement) has the largest bloc inside the Likud’s Central Committee. In a very short time we became known as the group which “does not come with a price tag.”
The view of politics as horse trading is unfortunately unique neither to Likud nor to Israel.
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