Opinion

Did You Sign Netanyahu's Loyalty Pledge? Ask for a Guarantee

Netanyahu speaks at the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Embassy's move to Jerusalem, August 3, 2019.
Emil Salman

The signature of 40 Likud members on a declaration of allegiance to the prime minister is a right and proper step for a country in the Middle East. In Islamic political culture such a signature is known as ba’yah, an expression of loyalty to the ruler and commitment to accept his authority.

In ancient times the caliphs would demand a ba’yah from conquered tribes or those who joined Islam. In the modern period, the Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi compelled his followers and organizations that joined ISIS to declare the ba’yah publicly as an expression of total obedience to his orders.

The ba’yah, Likud MKs should know, lasts for the duration of the leader’s lifetime or his time in office. It obligates not only tribal leaders and commanders of organizations and fighters, but the entire tribe and the public.

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As the leader of the “Likud state” it is Netanyahu’s right, and even his obligation, to demand blind obedience and a pledge to unconditionally defend his rule, his family and his property. As the Koran instructs: “Obey Allah, and obey the Messenger, and those charged with authority among you.”

Not only the 40 wise ones of Likud are thus obligated, but the entire Likud public, the politicos, activists, teenagers, women and children. And because this is the supreme leader and the ruling party – the entire public, in Israel and the diaspora, must be loyal.

But there is also a worrisome side to pledges of loyalty. Every one of the Likudniks who received the order to sign sent by MK David Bitan, should feel insulted. They are, after all, a sacred congregation, bearers of the Tent of Meeting, who for their entire lives have promoted the Likud, put Bibi on the kingdom’s throne, whipped his opponents and bad-mouthed his rivals, and blasted the law and the courts that have dared to investigate and formulate an indictment against the caliph and his wife, the messenger of God on earth.

So all of a sudden, they are now suspected of disloyalty?

On the critical day shall they all of a sudden change their principles and give their hearts to someone else? Such suspicions may suit a democratic country where anyone can change loyalties at will, but not a kingdom in which disloyalty is considered tantamount to rebellion. These Likudniks should conclude that in Bibi’s eyes, any one of them is a potential traitor, and all are swindlers, cheats and schemers on whom the ruler cannot depend.

There is only one way for them to preserve their dignity. They must demand an identical declaration of loyalty from the leader. A pledge that they will get the best places in the temple, the most important ministries, that Bibi will not start flirting with ideological rivals, that he won’t bring the Kahane tribe into the shrine.

In short, that he will protect the Likud the way that the Likud protects him.

Likudniks who do not demand such a guarantee are ready to sell their souls for nothing. Because they will now be asked to market the prime minister, to run across the mountains to seek votes, to explain until they’re blue in the face why “only Bibi,” and all that only to discover at the end of the race that they are beyond the pale in the political cemetery, loyal to a leader who betrayed them and gave the pleasures of government to the heads of tribes who did not lift a finger for his success.

Where can such Likudniks hide their shame? Will they explain, with embarrassment, that what is important is that the right wing has won (if indeed it has), that it’s not so terrible that Ayelet Shaked and Naftali Bennett are senior members of the government, that it’s fine that the offspring of the messiah dictate policy to Netanyahu and Likud?

Deep in their hearts, Likudniks know that their forced loyalty to Bibi may lead them and their party to a devastating fall. If only these Likudniks had the courage to separate from Bibi, they think, perhaps Likud could wrap itself in a magnificent robe rather than a torn patched up garment.