Opinion

The Former Gatekeeper’s Curious New Caucus

MK Jacob Perry was once head of Israel's internal security service and spoke of how it was impossible to rule over the Palestinians. So why is he now heading a group in the Knesset promoting 'military victory over Israel's enemies'?

MK Jacob Perry (Yesh Atid).
Michal Nahum

If you’ve been feeling pressured or depressed in recent days due to what appears to be a loss of control in Israel, a leadership vacuum and a predictable deterioration in the security situation – just be aware that the solution is right around the corner. It’s all in your head. Two weeks ago, a new caucus was established in the Knesset: the Israel Victory Caucus (although the Knesset translates it as the Caucus for Promoting the Recognition of the Israeli Victory). This is a copy of a similar caucus established in the U.S. Congress in April, called the Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, whose members include several Republican representatives from the party’s far right – a group that in English is euphemistically labeled “neoconservative.”

The objectives of the new caucus – which in effect has been translated from the Americanese of those same loons – are explained on the Knesset website: “The caucus will work to increase awareness and promote in Israel and abroad the recognition that Israel’s victory over its enemies means that the Zionist idea has triumphed and that the State of Israel is the state of the Jewish People. The caucus will incorporate in its activity a clear message regarding the need for a military victory over Israel’s enemies and the creation of an iron wall in the face of the enemies of Israel and the Zionist idea.”

This is an updated version of the nonsense about “victory” and “burning in the consciousness” that have been adopted by the Israeli right in the past two decades, as the situation on the ground under this same right-wing government has become ever more disappointing. The most outstanding local bearer of these tidings in recent times is MK Bezalel Smotrich (Habayit Hayehudi), who is, of course, a member of the new caucus.

Alongside him are MKs Oren Hazan, Yehudah Glick and Avraham Nagosa (all Likud), Hamad Amar, Robert Ilatov and Yulia Malinovsky (all Yisrael Beiteinu), and Merav Ben Ari (because you always need a fig leaf from the Kulanu party).

But the caucus’ most prestigious seal of approval can be found in the position of chairman. There are two of them. One is MK Oded Forer (Yisrael Beiteinu). But the second is less expected and more interesting: MK Jacob Perry (from Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party), the former science, technology and space minister. Additional prominent milestones in his public career: CEO of telecoms giant Cellcom during the years of wholesale looting of the public; and leadership of the Shin Bet security service.

Perry is a curious case. When Dror Moreh made his 2012 documentary “The Gatekeepers,” which actually told the history of the occupation and its disastrous effects through the eyes of generations of former Shin Bet chiefs – Perry was there. He blabbered in left-wingish tones, raised questions and expressed regret, begged for forgiveness and warned how pointless and hopeless it is to continue ruling over the Palestinian people and attempting to defeat them by force. Here is a man for all seasons. A mouth for hire. The man without qualities, to borrow the title of Prof. Robert Musil’s timeless book.

The thing about Perry is that it’s never clear if he himself is certain about his next step – for instance, if he is aware that the founder of both the American and Israeli Victory caucuses is Daniel Pipes. Pipes is a familiar figure in far-right Jewish circles in the United States. Among other things, he previously accused former President Barack Obama of being a Muslim who in his childhood regularly attended a mosque with his father. He conducts his battle against Palestinian awareness from the safe distance of Philadelphia. His motto: “There can be either an Israel or a Palestine, but not both.” He also has a think tank there to promote those ideas, called the Middle East Forum.

This erudite man does not limit his areas of expertise to the Jewish-Arab conflict. It is the clash of civilizations he has in mind. “West European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene,” he wrote in the National Review magazine in November 1990. This is a spirit that clearly chimes with Smotrich’s ideas about hospital maternity wards.

On the face of it, it’s less clear what Perry has to do with this agenda. After all, he’s a member of a party whose senior members include the liberal and enlightened Yael German and Ofer Shelah. Over the years it has even included “brown-skinned people.”

But that’s exactly the story of Yesh Atid: A weather vane of lies and deceit; a right-wing party disguised as “centrist,” which could be said to have lost its way if it weren’t for the fact it never had one – except for the direction of the wind at any particular moment.

With uncanny timing, as Perry joined forces with Smotrich, on Sunday Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid saw fit to renew his fraternal alliance with Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett. The two were seen giggling and toadying to each other in the illegal West Bank outpost of Netiv Ha’avot, which is about to be demolished following a High Court of Justice order. Bennett called Lapid “my brother.” Brother Lapid rejected the High Court and the Peace Now NGO, and vowed in the name of Emmanuel Moreno (a fallen Israeli soldier who features on a memorial at the outpost).

Apropos toadying and chutzpah, this may be the place to quote Lapid’s enthusiastic groupie on the Haaretz op-ed page, Tzvia Greenfield, who on Monday wrote that Netanyahu “leaves the main work against political rival Yair Lapid to the useful idiots of the Israeli left, who don’t stop for a minute trying to weaken the chief threat to Netanyahu’s rule, instead of weakening Netanyahu.”

Well, Greenfield, this is how it works. In the Israeli democratic camp, there are currently useful idiots of one kind: Those who support people like Lapid and Perry, and refuse to understand that every vote for Yesh Atid is a vote lost to a right-wing party. Lapid has already declared that his first phone call after the next Knesset election will be to Likud, and he raced to the illegal outpost in order to renew his brotherhood with Bennett. Perry heads a Knesset caucus that promotes the ideology of Smotrich and fellow right-winger Hazan. If they receive enough votes, they will form the next Likud-Habayit Hayehudi government – just as they took pride in doing after the 2013 election.

The only caucus that is urgently needed is one to defeat this Trojan horse. All the rest can be dealt with afterward.