A Dark Shadow Has Been Cast Over the Likud and Jabotinsky's Legacy

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Yoav Eliassi (“The Shadow”) at a right-wing demonstration in Tel Aviv.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum

There’s nothing more fitting than the “The Shadow” (rapper Yoav Eliasi) joining the Likud on the anniversary of the death of Ze’ev Jabotinsky to symbolize the movement’s moral deterioration over the past several years. From a liberal nationalist movement that championed Jabotinsky’s ideology, Likud has become a movement that gives expression to the views of the radical right – racism, violent hatred and a rejection of the liberal values that Jabotinsky spoke and wrote about. Instead of Jabotinsky’s version of Betar’s glory, we have Betar’s disgrace, La Familia-style.

How distant the vision is of this government, which advances discriminatory legislation against Arabs, from Jabotinsky’s vision of total equality for the country’s citizens. So it is with the proposed Basic Law – Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, which the Likud has kept on the Knesset’s agenda for years and that seeks to give preeminence to the state’s Jewish character over its democratic character, and to undermine Arab rights. How different is that bill from Jabotinsky’s vision: “If we had a Jewish majority in the land, we would first of all create a situation of total, absolute, and perfectly equal rights, without exception; Jew or Arab, Armenian or German, there would be no difference under the law.”

Jabotinsky also advocated total freedom of the press, while Culture Minister Miri Regev can’t understand why public broadcasting must be independent and needn’t obey the government, and coalition chairman David Bitan is worried that the media has too much freedom.

These phenomena are not new. Politicians who faithfully represent Jabotinsky in the Likud have become an extinct species while some, led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have been swept into the populist stream while betraying the values of democracy. It’s not like it was in the period when Likud was led by people such as President Reuven Rivlin.

The prime minister and other Likud leaders can decide whether to continue this erosion or stop it; whether to stand behind the values of liberty, free expression and human rights, or with belligerence, hatred and divisiveness. Even more crucial is the power in the hands of Likud supporters and the national camp, whose party has essentially been the victim of a hostile takeover.

Due to the low number of votes required to be elected in the primaries and the fact that most voters leave the primaries arena to special interest and extremist groups, the drift toward extremism and populism is almost inevitable – unless masses of independent-minded people join the party and choose worthy candidates to lead it. Anyone who sees himself as faithful to Jabotinsky and the historic Likud movement but does not join the Likud and participate in the fight for its future is abandoning it to people like The Shadow, and helping turn the ruling party into a party of darkness.

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