During the first week of June, 2012, Israel’s Knesset ruled that five apartment buildings in Judea-Samaria, at a place called Ulpana (also called, Givat Ha Ulpana), were not to be protected by legislation, but would instead be torn down according to a standing Supreme Court order. After the vote, angry Nationalist Jews were heard to say that this legislative failure proved that ‘Feiglinism’ was dead.
What is ‘Feiglinism’--and is it dead?
‘Feiglinism’ comes from the name, Moshe Feiglin, head of the Likud Party faction called, Manhigut Yehudit. He is commonly identified as a Religious Nationalist. He believes that Israel politics can be influenced from inside Likud, Israel’s most powerful political party.
The Jews in Israel who claim ‘Feiglinism’ is dead are also, generally, Nationalists; some are even Likud members. Like Feiglin, they believe in the language of the Likud Platform. That document states clearly that Judea-Samaria is part of Jewish ancestral homeland, and is to be protected. It is not to be carved up; and, perhaps most important for our discussion, Jewish residents within Judea-Samaria are not to be uprooted.
Nationalist Jews are angry for several reasons. First, Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s Likud Prime Minister, has repeatedly chosen to ignore his Party’s Platform. He uproots Jewish residences in Judea-Samaria and offers ancestral Jewish homeland as concessions to Muslims.
Second, each time Nationalists are attacked for something occurring in Judea-Samaria, Mr Netanyahu has consistently supported the Left, which is often responsible for starting that trouble.
Third, each time Nationalist attempt to curb anti-Israel Leftist behaviour-- either through legislation or the Courts-- Mr Netanyahu rules (or supports decisions) against them.
Finally—and worst of all--there is a growing body of evidence to suggest that Mr Netanyahu makes promises to Nationalists in order to secure their consent over a contentious issue—and then reneges on his promise. This is what happened at Ulpana (a neighbourhood in Beit El). There, Mr Netanyahu promised that, if Nationalists did not oppose him over the decision to destroy Jewish apartment buildings, he would build 300 residences in Beit El to replace the 30 destroyed; less than ten days later, a Defense Ministry official told both an Ulpana resident and Israel National News that the promise would not be fulfilled.
Nationalists, it seems, had been suckered again. Even with an insider—Moshe Feiglin—Nationalists have lost yet another battle with a Likud leader who rejects his own party’s commitment to the ‘settlement enterprise’. Therefore, the argument goes, the influence-from-within approach of Moshe Feiglin is a failure: ‘Feiglinism’, they will tell you, is dead.
Don’t believe it.
Yes, many are angry—and (correctly) they look to identify the cause of their failures. They want to protect Judea-Samaria. They understand that they cannot long sustain repeated losses against both the Left and an apparently pro-Left Prime Minister. They know they cannot afford to lose every confrontation. So they do what every human does under pressure: they seek a simple cause so they can create a simple solution.
What’s simpler—and more publicly visible--than Moshe Feiglin, the leading faction head in Likud? He is the perfect ‘problem’: he has said he aimed to influence from within. He has worked ‘within’ for years. He has not given Nationalists dramatic results—and he certainly did not stop Netanyahu at Ulpana.
Doesn’t that mean he has failed?
Unfortunately, the Nationalists’ problem is not that simple. For one thing, Feiglin has never promised he would create successes. He has always said this is a long-term, uphill battle that is measured in inches, not miles. He is not a magician. Instead, he is a homesteader making fertile a soil that had often been a Religious-Nationalist desert. His support within Likud did not grow from 3% to 30%+ because he gave out candy. That support grew because he has proven his competence, and people respect that. His influence grows—to the extent that, with only one exception, all Likud MKs who are not ministers or deputy-ministers (vassals of Netanyahu) had voted for Ulpana.
Mr Netanyahu is a difficult opponent. He is intellectually brilliant, unemotional and brutally tough. He plays politics the way some chess-masters play chess. Do Nationalists truly appreciate this?
To confront Netanyahu, Nationalists need insiders and outsiders to work together; they need an articulate, organized and visible unity that is as strong and impenetrable as Netanyahu.
Feiglinism is not dead. The unvarnished truth is, Nationalists in Israel do not have a chance to win unless they have a strong insider: inside influence is the leavening for their political dream. Feiglin’s strength grows and should be supported. If Nationalists scorn or reject him, then they fight a brilliant, unemotional and calculating adversary who knows how to leverage that scorn and rejection.
Internecine conflict or distrust reflect group weakness. If you fight Netanyahu with that weakness, he will beat you every time.