A Moment Before Armageddon

To form a government that can reverse the country's direction, personal egos must be set aside - and the example must be set by Yair Lapid.

Ofer Vaknin

Moshe Feiglin was convicted of sedition. He was sentenced to prison for his part in the incitement and sedition that preceded Rabin’s assassination. Feiglin is the coalition’s deputy Knesset speaker. One should read these lines once again to understand where Israel stands.

Feiglin is working obsessively to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. For him, realizing Israeli sovereignty in the plaza of the mosques is the main thing. Two years ago, before going up on the Temple Mount, fliers bearing his name were distributed to registered Likud voters. These fliers called for cleansing the Temple Mount of the impurity of strangers and the construction of the Temple on the ruins of the mosques. At conferences, Feiglin works with Yehuda Etzion, who was convicted of planning to blow up the mosques. During the war in Gaza, Feiglin published a plan for ethnic cleansing. He believes in transfer, by force in wartime. With all that, he is a major contender for the leadership of the ruling political party. To compete with him, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu must contend against him and his doctrine.

Former heads of the Mossad and the Shin Bet such as Shabtai Shavit and Carmi Gillon, who are not aligned with the center-left, had good reason to issue the warnings they did against the approaching possible destruction of Israel. The apocalyptic messianism they saw from within was a greater threat to the country than any external danger. A serving police chief such as Yohanan Danino, who is not identified with the left wing, had good reason to come out against the regime in an effort to stop the messianic rush to the Temple Mount.

Throughout much of history and in most countries, the military establishment stands to the right of the government. During times fraught with messianism, it finds itself standing to the left of the regime. This is happening now in Israel. This situation could enable a turnabout. The energy of worrying about the increasing extremism in the uppermost echelons could turn into a lever for change in Israel. But for that, the proper strategy must be mobilized.

The key person who needs to step back is Yair Lapid. Yossi Verter wrote in these pages two days ago about how Lapid’s insistence on running for the premiership when the public does not want him as prime minister is creating an obstacle to that turnabout. But the issue is broader than that; it goes beyond the personal. Lapid has a strategy that strikes at the “Zoabis” and fights against the Haredim. So he preferred to align himself with Habayit Hayehudi’s Naftali Bennett, Uri Ariel and Orit Strock, forming a “Jewish Brotherhood” alliance. There is a small problem here: There will never be a numerical, right-wing-free replacement for the Rabin-style coalition, which depends on cooperation with Arabs and Haredim.

When people make strategic mistakes, they follow with tactical mistakes. The hallucination of the government with Naftali Bennett is giving way to that of the government with the supposedly more moderate Avigdor Lieberman – the same man who combined the citizens of Umm al-Fahm with the Arabs of Jaffa and Acre as candidates for transfer. If that’s a plan for “peace,” it would be interesting to see his plans for war. Of course, the delusional alliance with Lieberman – which pushes away the Arabs, the left wing and the Haredim – cannot last. As always, the purpose of Lieberman’s game with the non-right is to obtain more on the right. Or, if the non-right is stupid enough, he will use it to get himself the premiership.

The only road to creating a turnabout goes through Labor: a pact between parties, movements and leading figures under the rubric of “One Israel,” which defeated Netanyahu in 1999. That is the only way that the concern of establishment figures such as Shavit and Gillon can gain expression. A citizen coalition supported by the Arabs and the Haredim can only be formed by means of such a movement. When the danger is existential, there is no alternative but to make personal compromises.

This is nothing personal. After the last elections, I suggested trying to form a government – as was possible then – with the Haredim, headed by Lapid. But he chose differently, and the choice carries a price. There will be no similar option over the next several years. Without a willingness to put personal aspirations aside for the sake of a winning strategy – one in which you are not in the first slot – the government will continue to be ridden by Feiglin’s messianism. The defense establishment heads’ warnings of a messianic and religious Armageddon will come true. When our existence and the dream of generations lie in the balance, personal ego must not be the deciding factor.