(An attempt at analysis)

Part 1 of 2

by Boris Shusteff

On December 9, the Likud Central Committee voted in favor of allowing Ariel Sharon to begin negotiations with the Labor party in order to bring it into the government. It was a watershed event for the nationalist camp. Sharon came another step closer towards the expulsion of Jews from Gaza. Correspondingly, Sharon's opponents in the Likud failed, and the already loud voices of those who do not believe in Moshe Feiglin's approach to revitalize the Likud from inside became much louder.

Feiglin's critics claim that his Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction has not achieved anything within the Likud and only demoralizes the nationalist camp, which believes that the Likud is a nationalist party. By retaining his affiliation with the Likud, Feiglin and Manhigut confuse people, prompting them to vote for the Likud thus weakening the nationalist camp. Therefore, critics argue, Feiglin and his supporters should immediately leave the Likud and create a new nationalist party uniting all nationalist forces around it.

These and similar accusations and suggestions not only lack logical coherence, but are also devoid of common sense in the context of the Israeli reality. First of all, Feiglin was not the one who wrote the Likud platform. Vice versa, he came to the Likud precisely because he believes in what is written in its platform. If the Likud's Central Committee continues to almost unanimously vote against the creation of an Arab state in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, is it Feiglin who ignores the party platform or Sharon, who advocates such a state? If the Likud platform declares that the Jews have unquestionable rights to reside in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and Sharon has developed a plan to expel Jews from there, is it Feiglin or Sharon who rejects the Likud's political line?

The answer is unambiguous -- there can be no doubt that it is Sharon, and not Feiglin, who violently bends the Likud in order to squeeze it into his personal mold. Even worse, the Procrustean bed into which Sharon is trying to fit the Likud more and more resembles the broken bed of the Israeli Left, which was twice discarded by the Israeli voters into the dustbin of history.

Certainly the question arises as to why the Likud permits Sharon this unceremonious behavior. The answer has many sides. First of all, it is based on people's selfish nature. Many Likud Knesset members simply do not want to part with their comfortable chairs, sizable salaries and lucrative perks. Since they are not sure that new elections will bring them back into the Knesset, they prefer to remain glued to their seats even if this contradicts the Likud's official platform. Moreover, since internal Likud polls indicate that if the elections for party leader were held today Sharon would win again, why bother replacing Sharon with Sharon?

In another category are those who comfort themselves with the thought that all the promises they have made to themselves to stick to the Likud's values still remain intact. After all, though they support Sharon's disengagement plan, the votes taken so far have not yet been the critical ones. And during the vote that will really, really decide the fate of the Jews in Gaza and the Northern Samaria, they intend to vote with their conscience, meaning against disengagement. Meanwhile many other things might happen and Sharon's expulsion deal might not go through. So why should they risk Sharon's anger and show disloyalty when they can avoid manifesting their real feelings for now?

And last, but not least, Sharon won the Likud vote on December 9, because he had many supporters whom either he managed to convince, or they wanted themselves to be convinced, that the expulsion of the Jews from Gaza is good for Israel in the long run. Sharon keeps hinting that it will save a lot of other settlements. And while this fantasy of Sharon's does not have any substance to it, it is very easy to become self-delusional.

In summary, it's safe to say that Sharon's victory on December 9, was fully predictable and therefore should not warrant any critique of Manhigut. Actually, Feiglin himself was not concerned with this "defeat." As he wrote in The Jerusalem Post on December 7, "Speaking of political parties, I believe that bringing Labor into the government will actually quicken the process of the Likud returning to itself."

Those who blame Feiglin for betraying the nationalist camp somehow keep forgetting that the Likud was created as a nationalist party. When Sharon was active in its formation he was very vociferous declaring that it must be a clear alternate to the Labor party. From the beginning, the Likud was and still remains a nationalist party, since its platform still speaks of the "unassailable right of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel." It states, "The Jewish communities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza are the realization of Zionist values... The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities and will prevent their uprooting."

It is obvious that this philosophy is completely opposed to the Labor party's. Therefore, when Sharon accepts Labor's party platform principles that call for "dismantling isolated settlements" this does not make the Likud stop being a nationalist party, but means that Sharon no longer fits in the Likud. He has usurped the party ideology, declaring that he is the party, and whatever he decides will be the party's line.

It is because of this usurpation that there was so much talk on reforming the party when Feiglin and Manhigut joined the Likud. Perhaps even Feiglin and his colleagues believed this themselves. But they found out quickly that the Likud platform was a healthy platform of a nationalist party. It is the leader of the party and his cronies who are distorting the party's image, deceiving people by making them believe that they are the party's real voice.

Thus Feiglin's original idea of bringing more people into the Likud and by this process to reform the party became obsolete. The Likud is a nationalist party and it does not require ideological changes. On the contrary, it needs only to stick to its original ideology and platform. All that is required is simply to repeat verbatim what is written in the Likud's platform and follow through on it.

This did not make the Manhigut's life easier. Instead of working to reform the party's ideological-political structure, it became necessary to lead its members back to the original path. At first glance the task did not seem too difficult. If almost 100% of the Likud Central Committee voted against the creation of a Palestinian state one should expect that a similar fraction of Likud Members of the Knesset should be in line with this position, since they were all put on the party list by the Central Committee. However, people's self-interest is so strong that it sharply distorts the picture. Ideology has been suppressed by egotism.

It has therefore become necessary to wake up the members of the Likud and remind them that they affiliated with the Likud because of its ideology. The difficulty of this task was exacerbated by the fact that because of the Oslo process, Jewish and Zionist ideological values have been severely damaged. For ten consecutive years the official Israeli press has drummed into people's heads that ideological principles should be abandoned for the sake of an ephemeral "peace." And the terrorist war of the last four years has suppressed all ideologies, except that of survival.

(End of Part 1 of 2)




(An attempt at analysis)

Part 2 of 2

by Boris Shusteff

It is not easy to revive ideological values in a society that has been told for many years that ideology does not matter. Under these circumstances, Feiglin's tasks are very difficult. He needs to lead Manhigut in a way that allows him to stay visible as its leader, and simultaneously to support other ideologically healthy leaders in the Likud, who can present a serious challenge to Sharon.

Manhigut realizes very well that it is not strong enough to win the Likud's next leader elections. Therefore its activity is directed toward strengthening its own base and simultaneously expanding the base of its ideological allies. By its actions Manhigut has demonstrated that it will support anyone in the party who follows the Likud's ideology. Thus it actively supported Uzi Landau, who not only loudly declared his objection to Sharon's disengagement policy, but also openly voted against it. Likewise Manhigut provided substantial backing to Israel Katz and officially disavowed him only when Katz showed ideological weakness. It would be safe to assume that Manhigut will fully embrace Katz again if he realigns his ideology with Likud's ideological platform.

Saying that Manhigut's undertaking is not easy comes from the fact that since the Likud's pre-election Knesset list is voted on by the members of Likud's Central Committee (the Merkaz), in order to advance into the Knesset the movement needs to gain as much support as possible of the approximately 2500 members of the Merkaz. Manhigut's task of reaching out to the Merkaz is made easier by the fact that they do not need to introduce any foreign elements into the Likud's ideology. On the contrary they just have to remind the Merkaz members of their past. They have only to clean the dust off the Likud's clear ideological position that has accumulated through the Oslo years.

One might say this is an impossible task, since today the whole Israeli media is geared towards the anti-Zionist idea of dismantling the settlement enterprise. The brainwashing of the people by leftist propaganda goes unopposed, since the Israeli nationalist camp does not even have a single radio channel that can counter this anti-Zionist propaganda. Leaving aside the fact that it is almost impossible to get through the Israeli bureaucracy for obtaining permission for such a channel, the associated cost would doom the whole project.

However, Manhigut has found a simple solution to this seemingly unsolvable problem. By using its most precious resource - its dedicated people -- Manhigut has developed a way to reach to almost all Merkaz members. It launched the so-called "project 15" initiative, under which each of Manhigut's 150 Merkaz members was tasked with approaching 15 Merkaz members not belonging to Manhigut. Feiglin believes that with these one-on-one relationships he will be able to relay to the whole Merkaz that Manhigut's ideology is exactly the Likud's, and nobody can better represent the Likud than Manhigut. Moreover, by this personal approach Manhigut wants to reawaken the spirit of Judaism and Zionism that exists in every Jewish soul.

This face-to-face approach will make the other Merkaz members see that the so-called "Feiglinists" are not the monsters who want to usurp the Likud (as they are painted by many) but simply Jews who are not indifferent to the fate of the Jewish state and who feel its pain much sharper than the majority of the people.

Manhigut has also created its own newspaper and started to spread the written word as well. The newspaper "Metzuda" (Tower) is distributed by hand by over 400 Manhigut volunteers in an attempt to reach not only Ministers, members of Knesset, and Merkaz members, but as many Likud voters as possible. Each issue of "Metzuda" is the best reminder to its readers that they belong to the party founded by Zeev Zhabotinsky who warned the Jews that it is disastrous even "if we orally or on scratch of paper renounce our claim" to Eretz Yisrael.

Certainly Feiglin realizes that the road forward for Manhigut is not strewn only with roses. Since he has tied himself and his colleagues to the Likud, he bears responsibility for all the good and the bad associated with the party. If G-d forbid Sharon manages to push through his idee-fixe of a judenrein Gaza, Feiglin and the Manhigut will share the blame for this horrific deed with the rest of the Likud. But those who blame Feiglin for dirtying himself by affiliating with the Likud should first answer if it is realistic to expect anyone to emerge clean from the process of cleaning a sewer.

All those who advise Feiglin to quit the Likud and start a new nationalist party from a clean slate should look around. The last three years have unequivocally demonstrated that Feiglin is on the right track. The main proof to this is the absolute disarray within the nationalist camp. The Mafdal is on the verge of splitting. Moledet and Tkuma had separated from Liberman's Israel Beitenu party. During these three years neither Effi Eitam, nor Benny Elon, nor Arie Eldad, nor Tzvi Hendel, nor Michael Kleiner, nor Avigdor Liberman have even tried assuming the role of leading the nationalist camp.

It is simply ridiculous to assume that Feiglin's affiliation with the Likud precludes these able and talented people from developing a sound positive political platform for the nationalist camp. In contrast to their helplessness and complete lack of strategy in the last three years Feiglin and Manhigut have shown that they have a clear short-term and long-term strategy, which they follow.

Does this mean that all the other nationalist parties and groups must immediately shut their doors and rush to the Likud? Of course not. First of all because of the well-known warning against putting all of one's eggs into one basket. And secondly, because the Israeli electorate is so diverse that each of the nationalist parties can easily find a niche for its voters.

At the same time Feiglin and Manhigut must remain in the Likud and continue the vitally important work of waking up this nationalist party. Feiglin's main challenge is to make clear to the Merkaz members and to the whole Likud that it is Sharon and not Manhigut who is violating the Likud's ideological principles and rudely transforming it into a bad clone of the Labor party. Nobody is positioned better than Feiglin and Manhigut to hasten the hour when Likud will reject Sharon as its leader.

By remaining in the Likud and strengthening his position Feiglin will follow the famous chess principle that the threat is often much stronger then the move itself. Feiglin's Manhigut is the only undiluted group inside the party that unequivocally and completely supports the Likud's original nationalist ideology. If the nationalist forces inside the Likud continue to grow, the threat that they will soon become the majority will loom over people like Sharon and Olmert, making them nervous about their own fate. Because when this finally happens and the Likud loudly reaffirms its nationalist ideology, it will kick these people out.

The brilliant American syndicated columnist Ben Shapiro wrote on January 5, in his article "The next Prime Minister of Israel,"

"Feiglin recognizes that Israel's largest problem is not intractable external enemies but internal identity. And he seeks a solution not in complacency and appeasement but in that elite-scorned idea, national pride. 'I'm calling for a complete revolution in Jewish identity,' Feiglin stated. 'We need to identify as Jews through the Torah (Bible), because you can't identify the enemy until you identify yourself. Once you know who you are, and once you know that what you are doing is justice, fighting the enemy becomes simple.'"

It is this Jewish identity that Feiglin and Manhigut Yehudit want to return to the Likud party. It is this Jewish identity that the Likud with Feiglin as its leader will then bring to the Jewish state.



Boris Shusteff is an engineer. He is also a research associate with the Freeman Center for Strategic Studies.

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