Likud Primary Shows Netanyahu Is the Odd Man Out

If Netanyahu's opinions are his sins, then Netanyahu - again because of his opinions and behavior - is equally a foreign implant. And perhaps even more so than Feiglin.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seldom enjoys approval or benevolence from the Israeli media. The most notable exception is when he runs against Moshe Feiglin, his rival for the Likud's leadership. Feiglin, who is hated by the media even more than Netanyahu (and it's not easy to reach such a degree of hatred ) is presented as the quintessential enemy of the people. He is considered a "foreign implant" because of his opinions and conduct.

But if his opinions are his sins, then Netanyahu - again because of his opinions and behavior - is equally a foreign implant. And perhaps even more so than Feiglin.

Moshe Feiglin - Emil Salman - 02022012
Emil Salman

A person who wants to impose Jewish law on this country is indeed not following in the footsteps of the ideologues and founders of Herut, which later evolved into Likud. But this is even more true of someone who has grown weak and adopted the ideology of the Left, proclaiming, as head of a Likud government, that the Land of Israel must be divided into "two states for two peoples."

Ze'ev Jabotinsky was a liberal Jewish patriot, but he did not have deep feelings for the Torah ("There are two gates to my heart - the first is for my people and the second for culture, literature and writing" ). That is far removed from the Torah-based platform of Feiglin's Jewish Leadership faction of Likud.

Nevertheless, every faction of Jabotinsky's Revisionist movement adopted his doctrine that "our right to the Land of Israel is forever. And it [the land] is a whole. And it cannot be conceded." The head of the Betar movement stated: "All of it is ours." So did Likud's first prime minister, Menachem Begin (and his son, current minister Ze'ev Benjamin Begin ). And so did thousands of other believers who sacrificed themselves to uphold these principles.

Until Netanyahu came and renounced them. And said he would bisect the land.

Netnayhau's enormous, total deviation from Likud's ideological platform - the one and only realm that truly distinguishes it from the centrist parties - is what grants legitimacy to Feiglin's political activity in Likud. For if Netanyahu has plucked the movement's most fundamental principle out of Likud's heart, then Feiglin's adherence to this seminal principle and his attempt to restore Likud's heart to its proper place is a worthy moral and political act. In this respect, it is Feiglin, not Netanyahu, who represents the historical Likud.

On the other hand, the religious component that Jewish Leadership hopes to impose on Likud (and which stands no chance of being implemented ) is foreign to Likud's history, platform and essence. But once Likud became a supermarket of opinions, including on the most substantive issue defining its identity, Feiglin should be allowed the same privilege as Intelligence Minister Dan Meridor - whose opinions today are closer to those of Meretz than to those of the Likud in which he was raised. Why is Feiglin's behavior deemed immoral while Meridor's is considered pure as the driven snow?

There is nothing to worry about: Even if Feiglin's influence increases, Likud will not become a religious party. His influence on the choice of the party's Knesset members is also not great. Even in Feiglin's base of Judea and Samaria (the West Bank ), some two-thirds of registered Likud members belong to other factions of the party, like Hamateh Haleumi ("The National Staff" ), Likud Sheli ("My Likud" ) or Effi Eitam's group. These other factions are ideological rivals of Jewish Leadership, and they have greater influence than Feiglin does over the composition of Likud's Knesset slate.

During this week's primary, these factions urged their supporters to "vote from their armchairs." In other words, to say "no" to Netanyahu because of his ideological deviancy, his effective freeze on construction in the settlements and his failure to resolve the matter of the outposts, particularly Migron - but also "no" to Feiglin because of his extremist religious agenda and his total lack of activity with regard to the settlements.

It therefore turns out that a significant part of the opposition to Feiglin within Likud, including among religious members of the party, stems from the fact that he bases his entire worldview, including the political part, solely on religion, while classic religious Zionism believes in combining Zionist, national and historic components with religious components - and certainly in combining Torah with labor (as its flagship slogan once stated ).

It is this faction of religious Zionism, not the one that is becoming ultra-Orthodox, that established the settlement enterprise in Judea and Samaria. And despite the trend toward religious extremism, it still comprises the majority.

Read this article in Hebrew