Thursday, November 12, 2015

Moshe Feiglin: “No Greater Liberal or Human Rights Proponent than Me”

Moshe Feiglin at home

5 Pages in the Weekend Ma’ariv Newspaper on Moshe Feiglin and Zehut:

With a gun in his pocket, a new movement under his belt and a promise to end the occupation in an unconventional manner, he is once again storming the Israeli public. A special interview with the former MK, one of the first to raise the flag of Jewish ascent to the Temple Mount.

By Sarah Leibovitz Dar

Moshe Feiglin walks around with a pistol stuck into his pants pocket. “Guns are basic,” he explains. “The Ministry of Interior wanted to reduce the number of people carrying guns. Thanks to my work in the Knesset, tens of thousands more citizens have guns in the difficult period we are now experiencing. If I hadn’t been vigilant, there would have only been half the number of people bearing arms now. "

On the other hand, maybe fewer people would be killed.

“If a person who comes to murder you is killed, you have saved many potential murder victims.”

Would you be capable of killing?

“Without a doubt. I can kill a person who attempts to kill Jews. On a personal level, I do not want to kill. But if I have no choice, it is better that I should be the one who kills, and not vice versa.”

The current terror wave finds Feiglin in Australia, where he went to raise money and establish two branches of his “Zehut” (Identity) Movement. More than half a year has passed since he left the Knesset, and Feiglin is busy establishing the movement. One thousand people have already joined and its inauguration conference took place a month ago in Tel Aviv. 

“One thousand people came just from advertising it on Facebook. People are curious about my message. I have 115,000 followers on Facebook. In the morning, I wrote something on Facebook and in a short time I had 1000 likes, 44,000 views and 300 responses.”

We all know that nobody can live off of Facebooks ‘likes’. In the meantime, Feiglin supports himself from donations to his movement. 

“I am not entitled to a pension from the Knesset as I was an MK for only one term. Now my income is from the Zehut Movement. We have already put together 200,000 shekels. Every person who registers pays 66 shekels, which is not a small sum. Nonetheless, people pay. I am establishing a movement based on the 66 shekels of the average person. We are building the movement with our bare hands. It is a challenge strewn with many difficulties. It is an economic and publicity challenge. We must employ much daring. It is nothing like Yair Lapid, who has broad backing and is carried by the ‘politically correct’”.

Recently, Feiglin opened offices in Tel Aviv, in an effort to reach out beyond his political base. The person who is perhaps identified more than anyone else with opening the gates to Jewish visits on the Temple Mount seems to want the Tel Avivians to remember that he is also in favor of medical cannabis - and on many occasions expressed liberal positions in the Likud. 

“You have a person here who is not a total idiot and who believes in the people of Tel Aviv,” he says. “I have great faith in the young generation in Tel Aviv that wants exactly what I am offering. I have diamonds to offer the non-observant young people in central Israel.”

He hopes to reach ten thousand new members by the end of the year. The ultimate goal is one hundred thousand members. From there, the sky is the limit.

 “We just may be the surprise of the next elections. I do not want to be an ordinary MK. I want to lead the State of Israel.”

How will you lead the nation if even the Likud didn’t want you?

“The person who didn’t want me was Netanyahu, because I made his life difficult. In retrospect, he did me a favor because I am not tied to the constraints of an MK – neither practically nor ideologically. The Zehut tool that we are building with so much difficulty is not personality politics. It is ideological politics. Israeli politics is about faces and personalities. For example, Tzippy Livni, who skips from one party to the next. Look at all the generals who, upon their discharge from the army join the party that bids the highest for their face. This is a disgraceful phenomenon. I deal with ideas and produce answers for what seem to be dead-end situations.”

You are identified with the Temple Mount. Does that produce an answer or does it produce violence?

“When Ben-Gurion declared the establishment of the State of Israel, he created a focal point of conflict and endless war. Something in this country works opposite of what is anticipated. The Land of Israel has its own rationale. Here, you are subject to a different rationale.”

Tell the families of people murdered on the backdrop of riots that broke out because of the Temple Mount that the rationale in Israel is different.

“Jerusalem and the Holy Temple are the heart of the nation. Whoever does not understand that, understands nothing. I cannot rationally explain why the Temple Mount. But sometimes the least rational people turn out to be the most rational. The ‘rationals’ did not believe that rockets would fall on Ashkelon. I believed they would, so who was more rational? The rationals or the irrationals? If you attempt to flee to rationale that is irrelevant to here, you lose on every front. It just could be that yours truly and all the others who were of the same opinion were those with the correct rationale.”

And perhaps not. While you were in Australia and saw the dimensions of the violence from far, didn’t you say to yourself, even for a split second, that perhaps I was mistaken nonetheless? That your irrationality may be rational in your head, but not so in reality?

“I see that surrendering Israeli sovereignty on the Temple Mount to the Moslem wakf and our folding in the face of every demand of theirs is what leads to war.”

People are being stabbed here on both sides. Perhaps it is because of extremists like you?

“People are being stabbed here because of people like you, who fan the flames of Palestinian hopes that they can win the battle. We get violence in exchange. I want to extinguish the flames and create a reality of peace and quiet and you are incapable of understanding the logic behind it. Netanyahu and Peres have brought us blood, fire and smoke. I am guilty of one thing: That I did not succeed in stopping the Oslo Accords. Do you know how frustrating it is to be right all the time? Do you know how frustrating it is to see that everything that you warned of is happening now and you cannot stop it? I bring a worldview that is connected to reality. Those on our side who insist on telling the truth lower the flames.”

You are not at all willing to compromise. If you were a businessman and tried to do business that way, you would starve.

“Are you willing to compromise on your children? Liberal-speak has no listening ears in this region. As long as we project non-belonging, we will fan the flames.”

Let us put lofty ideas aside. Netanyahu suggested installing a network of cameras on the Temple Mount. Will that work?

“That is a joke. When will it be clear that it is a joke?”


“When the Arab punks on the Temple Mount will have something else to break. It is worse than foolishness. It is another carpet to throw into the glowing embers.”

He himself used to visit the Temple Mount all the time. But the police have prohibited him from visiting there since Yehuda Glick was shot.

“A few months ago I attempted to visit the Temple Mount, but the police would not allow me to enter.”

When you enter, it sparks a fire.

“And when you sit in your house in Givatayim, the fire is bigger. The goal of the Arabs is that the Jews will not establish a Jewish state anywhere – not specifically on the Temple Mount.”

Isn’t the tired mantra that the Arabs want to throw us into the sea passé?

“Not only do they want to do it, but the idea has become more and more visual thanks to YouTube. The problem is that a large section of the public here lives an illusion. Your path has brought us nothing but war and suffering. Nevertheless, you insist that I am the extremist. That is because there are certain circles in society, which happily are shrinking all the time, that are incapable of thinking outside their paradigms.”

Our meeting is in the lobby of a Jerusalem hotel. Uzi Landau sits at a nearby table. When he sees Feiglin, his face lights up and he gets up to give him a big hug. “That is an example of how people relate to me,” says Feiglin when he sits back down. Later, former Shas MK Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, joins him. “We keep our friendship going,” says Amsalem, who, before the last elections wanted to join Moshe Kachlon’s Kulanu party, but was rejected.

Feiglin says that he forged many important ties while he was in the Knesset. Together with MK Tamar Zandberg from Meretz, for example, he fought for cannabis, “and before the elections, the Green Leaf (legalization) party asked me to join them.” “Before the previous elections,” he says, “the Jewish Home party asked me to join them. They showed me polls that said that if I would head the Jewish Home, the party would get 20 mandates. But I am not interested in leading the sector. They are not interested in leading the state. They just want to be a sector that fights for its interests.”

He is proud of his friendship with Ilan Galon of Meretz, who even attended his son’s wedding. “As a former MK, I receive invitations to celebratory gatherings in the Knesset, but I do not go. Why should I focus on nostalgia when I have a future?”

The future plan of his movement is arranged to the last detail. He is convinced that it will work in every sphere. “In the security sphere, I will lower the flames when I end the Occupation,” he declares.

Did I hear correctly? You intend on ending the Occupation?

"Yes, our volunteers are working the universities right now with t-shirts that say, 'End the Occupation'. The question is how you end it. "

That really is a question. How do you end it?

"We will apply Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria. (Jewish) Ramleh and (Arab) Ramallah will be two cities in the heart of Israel."

I am not sure that in Ramallah, they will be very enthusiastic about your idea.

"The average person in Ramallah will be very enthusiastic. They were not happy when we forced the rule of the Hamas gangs upon them. "

Hamas does not rule in Ramallah, but please continue.

"In Ramallah they despise the Israeli Left. With me they will have all their options open: They can retain their status as permanent residents by signing on a declaration of loyalty to Israel. They can also ultimately attain Israeli citizenship after a long track of national service and proof of loyalty."

I have a feeling that that is the good part of the plan. Where’s the catch?

"The third option will be to help them to find their future in a better place. They have large communities in South America. Canada is waiting for them. There is an immense wave of immigration to Western countries. Tens of thousands leave Judea and Samaria every year. They leave Gaza in boats. They want to leave. Let’s help them. There already was a plan like that after the Six Day War. But when the young Palestinians reached South America, they discovered that nobody was waiting for them there. They finished off their money very quickly and a number of angry young people burst into the Israeli embassy in one of the South American countries and murdered the wife of the ambassador. Today the State of Israel can help much more. This is a very humane solution and rational as well. It will end the conflict, because there will be no more occupation." Could it be that the situation here will be better if a handful of Jewish and Palestinian extremists get money to leave the area? How much money would you want to emigrate from here? Fifty thousand dollars? One hundred thousand dollars?"

I don’t understand. Are you a dictator? Are you trying to make people leave?

"And what are you? You are trying to make people leave."

And if we are talking about emigration, there are quite a few Jews who would like to leave.

"I have no doubt that there are Jews who would like to emigrate. But this is the land of the Jews and the State is not interested in their emigration."

So maybe we should establish two states for two nations, nevertheless? Even Netanyahu has talked about that.

"That is a post-modern approach. It did not work and it will not work. When Israel will have leadership that projects deep faith in our relevance to the entire Land, we will be able to achieve peace. As long as we project that we do not belong here, we will fan the flames. "

As a sign that he intends to achieve peace in the region, Feiglin proposes reducing the size of the army and changing the enlistment laws. “There will no longer be mandatory conscription. Everybody will be drafted for a basic training of a month and a half. Afterwards, whoever volunteers to remain in the army - and the army determines that it needs him/her - will receive a real salary – not pocket money. This will create social status for those who do enlist and the problems we have today with the army will be solved. The problem is that we have lost our faith in the justice of our presence here. All that unites us is the IDF religion. It is high time that the will to establish an exemplary society here will represent us – not the IDF or Auschwitz, which, like the army, is a symbol of survival. Don’t we, the most ancient nation, have anything to offer the world besides the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum? Yad Vashem has replaced our Holy Temple in the Israeli psyche."

Out of the Box

Feiglin, 53, is married and the father of five. He lives in Karnei Shomron. He was born in Haifa and grew up in Rehovot. He studied at Rabbi Druckman’s Or Etzion yeshiva high school. In the army, he served in combat engineering. Upon his discharge, he started a window-cleaning company. In the mid-90s he established the Zo Artzeinu movement that protested the Oslo Accords and succeeded in drawing thousands into the streets. In September ’97, he was convicted of sedition and sentenced to 18 months in prison, 6 of them prison time, which he served doing national service. Together with others, he established the Manhigut Yehudit movement, which became a faction of the Likud. After a number of attempts, he managed to enter the previous Knesset and even served as Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. In the last Likud primaries, he was placed in the 37th slot and announced that he was leaving the party.

“In the Zehut primaries, we will have reserved slots for the Jews of the Diaspora,” Feiglin promises. “ They will not be able to be MKs, but they will be able to choose the candidates for our party list. This is a message of involvement and belonging. This is something entirely new in Israeli politics.”

After a two hour conversation, Feiglin suggests that we discuss internal issues, an area that will constitute an important plank in his new movement’s platform.

Ok, Let’s talk about it. How will you resolve the high price of housing?

"What has to be done is to practically close the Israel Land Authority. In the US and Australia, they gave out land for free. We will also do that here. Our volunteers are planning the project down to its finest details. Every citizen of draft age will participate in a lottery and will win a plot of land for free and upon which contractors will build. This will lower the price of housing because about half the price of an apartment is actually the cost of the land."

Will Arabs and the Ultra-Orthodox be allowed to participate in the lottery?

"The Arabs currently hold 60% of national land and they have nothing to complain about. But in principle, they can enlist in the army and participate in the lottery. The Ultra-Orthodox, as well."

It sounds realistic. And what about the high cost of living?

"We will allow free import of food products and nullify the Standards Institute and the Chief Rabbinate. We will strive to nullify the Israeli seal of approval. It is illogical that what is accepted practice in the world is not accepted here and needs a special seal of approval. The same applies to kosher standards. Why not rely on the kosher approval of the rabbis in the Diaspora? The Israeli kosher approval is what makes the cost of imported kosher meat so high. My movement advocates both Jewish identity and liberty. The State belongs to us and not vice versa. We tend to forget that here in Israel. I see the State as an important, even holy, value. But the idea that the State is above all is a fascist concept. You already understand that it is hard to define me. What am I? Rightist? Leftist?"

You live in a settlement, you don’t love Arabs, I would say that you are completely Right.

"I am certainly not a leftist, because the Left is worse than the Right. The Left wants State involvement. I will empower the communities. Communities that want to have public transportation on Shabbat will be able to arrange it and communities for which public transportation is not appropriate will not have buses on Shabbat. Do you want to hear what we will do with education?"

I hope it doesn’t include the emigration of children.

"Today, every child costs the educational system 4500 shekels per month. We will give this money to the parents and let them decide how to educate their children. The result will be boutique schools and there will be amazing education. The parents will be responsible for their child’s education and we may no longer need the Ministry of Education. We are spending a fortune on education and in exchange we are getting – not education – but a mechanism that lives off of education."

It sounds anarchisitic but quite pleasant. Will you raise the minimum wage so that people can actually live off their wages?

"There is no need to raise the minimum wage because all the money that we saved until now on education and logical land reforms will go back into the economy. Teachers will be able to earn even 20,000 shekels per month and if you do not allow foreign workers and instead open those work places to Israelis, the economy will flourish."

You are aware that liberals have a hard time with these theories…

"Sometimes they have a hard time and sometimes they don’t. I worked in construction and I am telling you that Israelis don’t work in construction - not because of the salary – but because of the image. There are foreign workers there, so Israelis don’t go there for employment."

I must admit that your worldview is quite frightening.

"I thought that you said ‘enticing’."

Frightening. According to your worldview, Israel will be closed off from the world.

"There will always be foreigners here. But our golden stock is that we are a Jewish state. It is impossible to turn our Jewish identity into a state of all its citizens. It is a shame that you don’t understand that nobody is more liberal or a proponent of human rights than me."


Ivor Silverman said...

Your views make sense, because of your lateral thinking.

Phillip Slepian said...

Feiglin handled an obviously hostile interviewer quite well. Why? Because his ideas are based on truths, and not the idealistic delusions of the Left.

FactsRule said...

Two questions for Moishe. One is that it would seem better to just repatriate to Jordan & Egypt the overwhelmingly genocidal so-called Palestinians, including Israeli ones unwilling to publicly pledge allegiance to Israel & be monitored for anti-Israel activities. Yes, finally declare sovereignty. But, to keep millions of genocidal so-called Palestinians on the tiny strip of land west of the Jordan that is exclusively Israel's by law seems too little to end the eventual destruction of Israel, one or several innocent people at a time daily ad infinitum.
2ndly, I can't imagine a situation where buses run on Shabbos until a particular street, then stop. If the nation doesn't close down for Shabbos everywhere, your alternative seems not to be. It would be chaotic, no?