It is said that when Israelis vote Left they get a Leftist government, and when they vote Right they still get a Leftist government. Conventional wisdom says this happens because the Left is so powerful in Israel the only way a Prime Minister can survive is to lean Left. If this is true, Rightist Likud is cursed.
Is a Right-leaning Likud cursed because Israelis—and a Prime Minister--know that Left is the only way to go? Or is conventional wisdom wrong?
To answer these questions, remember that Israel has become more Right—and religious. For the first time in a very long time, the Right/religious exert a growing influence in Israeli politics. They demand steadfastness. They also have a candidate for head-of-Likud, Moshe Feiglin. Their growing influence, and the extent of Feiglin’s base, suggest that Israel’s future will be determined not simply by Likud—Israel’s most powerful political party—but by how ideological and political arguments play out within Likud. Daniel Levy (who uses the following words to argue a different case), writing in The Middle East Channel, January 17, 2011, calls this growing Right/religious influence a reality that would have appeared inconceivable to Israel’s (non-religious) founders. But its presence in Likud today is real; and that reality means that Feiglin has surprising strength. It also means that the Left’s hegemony has passed.
We certainly ignore Feiglin’s strength at our peril because history has changed us—and our leadership needs. First, religion in Israel is no longer the province of an unwanted minority. Also, Israel’s existence is so threatened that we no longer have the luxury of supporting an anti-Israel Leftist agenda. In a hostile world, Likud defends us with a strong pro-Israel advocacy. Likud attracts many who are both pro-Israel and religious just at a time when Leftists want to un-Jewish Israel. The Left insists that we become a multicultural smorgasbord that would destroy everything that a pro-Israel, increasingly religious Israel majority believes in. The Left opposes Israel’s majority. They know that. They also know that their hold on power is virtually over.
Why does a Likud leader want to turn Left? Likud has what Israel’s majority wants: a nationalist agenda. The Likud Platform has support from both religious and non-religious voters. More important, non-religious-but-Right Israelis see religious Jews working to defend Likud ideals. Religious nationalists gain respect with every headline against them. This respect grows because non-religious ‘centrists’ have been mugged by reality as the UN turns against Israel and the Left encourages Israel’s enemies. Those who stand most steadfast for Likud ideals are often the religious nationalist. This defense of Likud does not go unnoticed. To put this into context, Michael Zylberman, speaking of Gaza in an undated blog called, the guardian.blog, writes that ‘Every rocket fired into Israel from Gaza is like putting a leaflet for Likud into every letterbox in Israel;’ the same thing happens today with every Leftist decision to demolish homes of religious nationalists in Judea-Samaria: each destroyed home is another leaflet for Likud--but because Netanyahu rejects Likud when he allows this demolition, those ‘leaflets’ are not just for Likud, they are for Feiglin. That is Feiglin’s strength and his political lifeblood.
Feiglin does not lean Left. His message is clear. Likud members know where he stands. They also know how the world treats Israel—and how Mr. Netanyahu has reacted. He back-pedals. He chooses ‘Left’. Likud voters are mostly pro-Israel—by an overwhelming majority. Mr. Netanyahu’s rejection of Likud ideals to look Left does not sit well with this majority. Now a nationalist and religious Moshe Feiglin asks Likud for votes; suddenly, Likud has a leadership candidate who is steadfast and articulate. In a world that turns against Israel, Likud knows that Moshe Feiglin is pro-Israel and strong.
How will Likud vote on January 31? Clearly, the ideological line-in-the-sand has been drawn: Netanyahu and the Left versus Feiglin and Likud. Who stands a better chance of defending Israel in the battles to come—one who leans Left, or one who chooses Likud’s ideals?
Likud has to choose. Mr. Feiglin does not waffle or connive with the Left. He does not ignore Likud beliefs. He tells you what he believes. He speaks of his basic values—his religion and our land. You know him. You understand he is steadfast. You know that when the going gets tough—and it will, soon—he will know how to speak. He will know what is true. No one believes that he will lean Left under pressure.
This is why Mr. Feiglin must replace Mr. Netanyahu: the battles ahead will be too serious to waffle and connive. We will not survive by embracing what is anti-Likud. You know this. Mr Feiglin knows it. Mr Netanyahu does not, as his actions clearly demonstrate. Your choice, dear Likudnik, could not be more obvious.