Wednesday, September 05, 2007

What Is He Afraid Of?

By Moshe Feiglin

fearElul 5767
Sep '07
"Why is Bibi so afraid of you?" people ask me time and again. How can we explain his behavior? The fear, the hatred, the immaturity so inappropriate to his position. What rationale is there for locking the doors, running away from reporters into a closed room and in the morning, all the ridiculous excuses -- "The hall was the Likud's but the room was mine." Why does he need to act that way? Is this the behavior of a candidate for Prime Minister of Israel?

There is no reason to look for the answer in the realm of logic. It is not my "extreme" ideology that sends Netanyahu into a frenzy. Even if my ideological platform was composed strictly of cheese cake recipes, Netanyahu would act in precisely the same way. There is also no reason to look for the answer in the realm of personality flaws. Netanyahu is not impulsive. On the contrary; he is calculated and level headed. To the best of my knowledge, those people who have gotten to know me have not found in me a personality flaw so monstrous that would make Netanyahu flee the way he did on primaries night. It seems that the answer that we are looking for runs much deeper.

According to a wide range of in-depth surveys, approximately 25% of Israel's Jews define themselves first as Israelis and then as Jews, while approximately 75% define themselves first as Jews and only then as Israelis. For example, in 2000, a survey by the Gutman Institute found that 79% of Israel's Jewish citizens define themselves as traditional in one way or another. Only 21% described themselves as secular.

In a survey that Netanyahu's advisor, Arthur Finklestein, conducted during that same time period, the answer to the question, "What are you first? A Jew or an Israeli?" produced very similar results. Close to 80% of Israel's Jewish population identify first as Jewish, while about 20% identify first as Israelis. But Finklestein did not stop there. He also investigated how the identity question correlated to voters of the various political parties. The Likud faithfully reflected the general picture of Israel's Jewish population. The percentages inside the Likud were basically identical to the data on Israel's general public -- 20/80. Interestingly, a survey recently published in the Makor Rishon newspaper reinforced the findings. According to the Makor Rishon survey, only 20% of the Likudniks define themselves as secular, while the rest define themselves as traditional.

In this situation, we would expect the Israeli democracy to express the 80/20 divide in the governmental pie. Israel's agenda should fit the values and goals of the Jewish majority. But just the opposite is true. The 80% are the silent, insignificant majority. We have all become accustomed to the fact that when we vote Left, we get Left and when we vote Right, we get double Left.

The minority that does not identify itself as Jewish has managed to take control of the national agenda, irregardless of the results of the elections. They do it by controlling the real power centers that are not elected by the public -- most of all, the media and justice system. They have neutralized the power of the Jewish majority, which has no real influence over the path that the State takes. This has not been a short process. It has accompanied Zionism from the time of the Second Aliyah and until our own days. Thus, an elite of 20% of Israel's population was created. Its agenda is to blur Jewish identity and to exchange it for universal Western identity. It rules over the great Jewish majority unchallenged.

Back to the struggle between Netanyahu and myself. During the entire campaign, I emphasized time and again that we urgently need to rebalance the distorted situation and to restore the State of Israel to the Jewish majority. No question about it -- Feiglin was speaking in the name of the 80% who identify first as Jews. And who does Netanyahu represent? We do not need to look at his lifestyle to conclude that Netanayhu represents the "Israelis" of the Likud. Just like the general situation in Israel, in which the Jewish majority is manipulated and controlled by the Israeli minority (in the name of "peace," of course) the Likud perfectly reflects this phenomenon. The percentages are even the same. The 80% traditional "Jews" are controlled by the 20% secular "Israelis."

Netanyahu sees himself as part of the ruling Israeli hegemony. Just like his look-alike in the Labor party. Both of them are very secular Ashkenazic men, veterans of the ultimate Sayeret Matkal crack unit. Nobody in the upper echelons of politics takes the Land of Israel or socialism seriously anymore. All that is left is power for its own sake. And power in Israel is granted only to the members of the exclusive 20% Club and to those that do their bidding. You can be a Sephardic Prime Minister and you can even have a kippah (skullcap) on your head -- as long as you can convince the Israeli elite that you are completely subservient to its agenda. If you stray from it, all the openness will disappear immediately and the democracy will begin to "defend itself."

A media handshake with Moshe Feiglin endangers Netanyahu's membership in the club. Essentially, when Netanyahu closed the doors on Feiglin, he was sending the 20% Club an important message: "Not only am I with you; I am also protecting you from the Feiglinites. I am the buttress holding back the 80% who threaten our hegemony." And so, the morning after the primaries, Netanyahu became the new "etrog." The media that so loves to hate him suddenly treated him with kid gloves. It is no small rarity to see leftist journalists Tommy Lapid, Amnon Dankner, Ari Shavit and Dan Margalit trying to outdo each other in their praise of Netnayahu.

Obviously, the media will abandon Bibi in no time and the adoration will once again be replaced with derision and scorn as the media gears up to get "their man," Barak, elected. True, Bibi is a secular Ashkenazi from Sayeret Matkal and that is all well and good. But he still heads the party of the primitive Indians. Much better to support the member of our 20% Club, who comes with impeccable credentials.
I placed my suitcases on the inspection table in Kennedy Airport. It was about a month after the previous Likud primaries and I was on my way back to Israel after a series of meetings and lectures in the U.S.

Suddenly, I feel someone pounding my shoulder.
"Feiglin!" a typical Israeli voice bellows. I turn around and see an Israeli wearing shorts and an undershirt in the middle of the New York winter. "Bibi was an idiot!" he continues to shout. I feel a bit awkward, but the man continues.

"He thought that if he would label you a criminal and throw you out of the Likud, he would draw votes from Kadimah. In the end, he didn't get one vote from Kadimah. But he lost ten right-wing Knesset seats to Lieberman."
"By the way," he shouts even louder, "do you know who I am?"

"I have no idea," I answer.

"I am Yamin Suissa from the Black Panthers. Remember us? I have been in Miami for the last five years, but I still follow everything that happens in Israel."

Suissa is right. Now Bibi is repeating the same mistake. In a Jerusalem Post survey published five days after the current primaries, we can already see the beginning of Bibi's collapse. 32% of Israel's citizens indicated that they prefer Olmert as prime minister. Only 24% opted for Bibi, and Barak got 19%. 25% preferred "Other." This collapse is truly spectacular when we take into account that just one year ago, Olmert had a popularity rating of 1%.

But because of Netanyahu's "20% Club" self image, he is incapable of learning the true lesson of the previous primaries. He cannot accept the fact that chasing after the 20% Club while turning his back on the Jewish majority has already shrunk the Likud to just 12 Knesset seats. Once again, he prefers to attack me in a miserable attempt to attain the legitimacy of the exclusive club.

Israel's public, though, learns quickly. It will ultimately see Netanyahu as he sees himself -- as a member of the Olmert and Barak 20% Club. And if Bibi offers no alternative to the Left, the public will simply choose the original.


jewish facesJews Just Getting Together

On Tuesday night, a very special gathering took place in Rosh Ha'ayin, in central Israel. The evening was advertised as a meeting with Moshe Feiglin. What transpired is a miniature example of what will hopefully take place throughout the country.

As the people filed into the home of the Cohen family, it seemed that a sampling of all of Israel had come. There were "religious" and "secular" Jews of all sorts, Sephardic Jews and Ashkenazic Jews, immigrants from France, from Russia and from the US. There were Rosh Ha'ayin veterans in ultra-Orthodox garb and Rosh Ha'ayin veterans in blue jeans. In short, Am Yisrael, the Nation of Israel, had come to hear Moshe Feiglin speak.

After a short introduction, the discussion turned to religion in the Jewish State. Everybody had an opinion. Is Shabbat strictly a synagogue day? Can it be observed on the beach? Who should determine the public observance guidelines? The Orthodox? The secular? Must every Jewish child in Israel be taught the Shema Yisrael and basic Judaism? What if his parents oppose the idea?

The discussion was often passionate, but it was completely friendly. It was interesting to see the divide on the issues. No stereotypes seemed to work. The "religious" people in the room insisted that it is specifically the secular who should determine public observance guidelines. They explained that their own children are brought up with their Jewish heritage and if there is public transportation on Shabbat, it will not undermine their faith. But the secular should be the most interested in public observance to ensure that their children integrate the Jewish atmosphere of the public domain into their lives. After one man said that he did not want his children to learn the Shema Yisrael, it was the secular guests who fervently argued that every Jewish child should at least be exposed to the basics of his own heritage.

At a certain point, Moshe Feiglin asked everybody to stop for a moment and pointed out that what was taking place in the living room in Rosh Ha'ayin was actually the process of returning the State to the People. "Until now," Moshe continued, a small, non-representative minority has forced its anti-Jewish agenda on us all. We can see that while we may not agree, we are all open to each other's opinions. This is not a quick or easy process. It will take years to rectify the damage done to the People by the anti Jewish minority. But in this room, we can see how it will work."

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