Monday, May 03, 2010

Who’s Right?

I’ll be blunt. I’m tired of this petty fighting between Ketzele (Ichud Leumi) and Moshe Feiglin (Manhigut Yehudit). The fact is, you’re both wrong and you're both right. And this petty fighting between the two of you is exactly everything that is wrong with the rightwing in Israel.

Ketzele claims that Feiglin has achieved nothing tangible within the Likud and Bibi does whatever Bibi wants. Feiglin claims that as yet another sectoral party Ketzele has no influence on the government and the government does what it wants.

Guess what, you’re both right about the other.

And you’ve both proved that the other is inconsequential to getting anything done the way we want. Congratulations.

Let’s start with Ichud Leumi.

I voted for you guys because for the most part you represent my views.

Not only that, but according to most polls, your party probably best represents the views of majority of this country on the “peace” issue: No Palestinian State, no dividing the Land, no evacuating settlements, and finding an alternate solution for peace with the Arabs.

But despite most of the country agreeing with you, most people probably don’t even know your party has a comprehensive platform on other issues. An excellent platform too, mind you. Because the rest of your platform is irrelevant. Ichud Leumi is and will always be viewed as a 1-issue party by the general public.

So Ketzele, I ask you this.

Let’s say Feiglin takes your advice and quits the Likud and come and takes over the Ichud Leumi, what will he accomplish?

Will the religious parties join under your umbrella?


Will Bayit Yehudit join under your umbrella?

About the same likelihood that they will do so now. Perhaps less likely, since the “lefties” in Bayit Yehudi may use the presence of the “extremist” Feiglin as an excuse to stay out

Will Ichud Leumi suddenly garner enough seats so at least it can’t be completely ignored?

Not likely.

So Ketzele, your advice to Feiglin is worthless, because Feiglin’s moving to your party will not likely accomplish anything significant, other than removing a thorn from Bibi’s side.

And as a final point (nothing personal), I think I’d like to see Michael Ben-Ari head up the Ichud Leumi party. I think he will do an excellent job of it.

Now Moshe, let’s discuss you and Manhigut Yehudit.

Have you accomplished anything in all this time in the Likud?

At best you can say you helped push a few right wing MKs to better positions on the list, and futilely raised a red warning flag every time the Prime Minister tries to take the Likud in a direction the country and the Likud doesn’t want to go, especially when no one else sees it coming.

But you are losing the battles and the war.

Bibi controls the battlefield. You can complain about changing the goalposts as much as you want, but they’re effectively his goalposts to move.

Yes, in a one-on-one face-off with Bibi on ideas and ideals you will unquestionably wipe the floor with Bibi. There is no doubt your positions and ideas are better, smarter, and the right way to go.

But guess what.

You will never be granted a face-off with Bibi.

Bibi owns your Likud battlefield. This is no longer a battle about ideas and ideals. Bibi has turned it into a battle about personalities, and while no one trusts Bibi, Bibi’s still managed to turn you personally into the invading boogieman that he conveniently uses as his strawman to get what he wants.

That is not about to change.

Do you know why?

Because Moshe Feiglin, you are an outsider.

Manhigut Yehudit created an excellent framework for returning the Likud to its native platform, but Manhigut Yehudit needs an insider to make it happen. An insider from the Likud family, from the traditional Likud paths to power.

If former general Effie Eitam had had a brain in his head, he would have joined the Likud from the start, and would have been in position 2 or 3 right now – and the right man to front for Manhigut Yehudit. But Effie thought sectorally and as such will always be relegated to the position of a sectoral candidate, even now that he joined the Likud as Bibi’s poster boy (who’s never even seen).

Manhigut will never be seen, until people originating from the traditional Likud family and corridors of power sit on top and be the image people see connected to Manhigut Yehudit. Until then, you Moshe will be Bibi’s invading boogieman and strawman.

Now let’s look at the other side of the table.

Ketzele, you’re party represents the purest, most unadulterated views of the voters. And as such your party needs to exist, and needs to fight for those views.

Perhaps in this particular Knesset configuration your party has been relegated to a marginal, ignorable position, but that doesn’t mean that after the next elections, when perhaps people are disenchanted with the Likud (and Yisrael Beiteinu) and are looking for a real rightwing party that will represent them, then it will be impossible to ignore the Ichud Leumi.

So Feiglin, you’re wrong here. As long as our system of representation is as it is, independent parties are important, they just need to be grown to the proper size. (Just as a strong Likud is bad under the wrong leadership).

Now Moshe, let’s talk about you again.

You clearly understand how Israeli politics work, and there is no doubt that because of you the Likud didn’t turn into Kadima Bet with all the Leftists placed in key MK seats like Bibi originally wanted.

There is no doubt your influence changed the Likud list positively, and there is no question that Bibi is very worried that someone may actually pay attention to the red flags you repeatedly raise against him – otherwise he wouldn’t be wasting any energy on you.

If it wasn’t for you, the Likud would have turned into Kadima Bet a while ago, and Bibi would have split Jerusalem already under Obama’s pressure.

So Ketzele you’re wrong here. As long as our system of voting is as it is, being part of the leading national party is important, you just need to be fully inside it, and accepted within.

Moshe and Ketzele – you both have similar goals and similar ideals. But you both have different tactics to get there. Instead of this petty fighting with one another, it’s time you both acknowledged that the other’s methods are legitimate, because by yourselves, you certainly won’t achieve our goals.

And this petty fighting makes you both look petty. Even worse, it makes the entire Right look petty and pathetic - which we're not.

In conclusion, Ketzele, keep growing your party, and consider giving Michael Ben-Ari the top spot. I think he can take it to heights we can only dream of.

And Moshe, keep fighting for Manhigut Yehudit, don’t give up, but keep an eye open for that religious, idealistic, charismatic candidate grown from within the traditional Likud paths to power (and not tainted with a sectarian label) that will be able to pick up Manhigut Yehudit and carry it over that line from outsider to insider. Because that is how you will win.And that is how we will all win.

(Alternatively, you all just need a top of the line image consultant and spin doctor PR firm - which is how Livni did it).

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Shlomo said...

Feiglin is interested in his own political advancement, not in the ideals he claims to represent. That is why he is willing to make political maneuvers such as the one which brought Ehud Olmert into the Knesset. So there is no chance that he would hand over his position to a less "sectarian" but more potentially successful candidate like Effi Eitam. It would go against everything he really believes in.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Shlomo: Feiglin could have been an MK years ago, in the righter wing parties. He could have easily gone there had he chosen, so I doubt he's in the game for "political advancement."

He has a very clear plan, which is that to govern the country, it must be from within the large parties, not the small sectarian ones.

This is identical to the way the Oslo Accords were promoted from within the Labor party.

Nachum said...

Every now and then I think of the Canadian Conservatives. Basically, the main "conservative" party had moved somewhat to the left. A right-wing party arose in the west. Its first leader resigned and it reinvented itself as a party out to govern the country. Then *that* leader resigned so that it would take over the older more established Progressive Conservatives; a third leader from the right-wing faction took over- and *he* became Prime Minister.

Feiglin, I think, has to realize that it won't be all him all the way to the end. Fair or not.

Shlomo said...

Jameel: Feiglin doesn't want to be a MK, he wants to be rosh memshala. That's why he avoids the small parties.

NormanF said...

Joe, I think the sectoral parties are filled with lunatics who have led Israel to disaster by splitting the vote on the Right. The truth is the Likud for better or for worse, is the only game in town. Religious Zionists are better off strengthening Yiddishkeit in a mainstream party and getting it to adopt their ideas and whatever one thinks of Feiglin - I believe personally, given the bankruptcy of Oslo and the peace process, that he has an idea whose time will come. And his ideas are based on a solid understanding of the Jewish roots of the country, human nature and political reality. It may take ten to twenty years even to see this idea take root in Israel but it will eventually happen. Feiglin lost a battle in the Likud but there is no doubt religious Zionists are now a force in the party. How to build on it? Lots of debate there but splitting the Right again is not the answer and will only bring the Left back to power. Politics means that a certain level of flexibility is required in the means while being true to one's vision.

We can all wish Manhigut Yehudit the best. The hard work has just begun in Israel.

Ben-David said...

Feiglin is the wrong guy with the right idea. The point is not what he himself has done - the point is the aggregate effect of his strategy on the complexion of the Likud.

We forget that the Likud at the time of Bibi I was bloated, aimless, and left Bibi subject to pressure.

Feiglin brought people like my wife and I into the Likud. We NEVER thought of Feiglin himself as a serious player. But we were tired of throwing our votes away on small parties, and didn't want our community to play the same dirty, selfish political games as the haredim.

We wanted a way to tap into the many people who agree with us, but would not vote for the small parties. Feiglin's strategy made sense, even if Feiglin himself wasn't going anywhere.

The aggregate effect of people like us on the Likud - and consequently on the political landscape of Israel - cannot be ignored.

Likud under Bibi II projects a tightened, clear-eyed nationalist message unlike the Likud under Bibi I or Olmert.

Now that the apparatchiks have defected to Kadima - and the general population is souring on Oslo - this process will intensify.

A vote for the smaller "purer" parties is still a wasted vote.

Bibi and Liberman are articulating a mainstream nationalist policy, and slowly weaning this country from the conceptual world of Oslo.

Faced with an acute security crisis, they are playing a very careful game against an antagonistic White House.

Neither Feiglin nor Ketzale could have risen to the occasion, provided measured, mature leadership, or played the long game that Bibi and Liberman are playing.

As a settler I'm not pleased in the short term - but I understand why Bibi's doing it (at least until we attack Iran). I understand that this is what's possible right now.

I don't think a lack of hot-headed impetuous idealism means that Bibi is in any way interested in peace talks, or a sellout. I'm happy to finally have leaders who are grown-ups taking the long view, and I'll be happy to go to protests and play Bibi's "bad cop" in the long-term effort to get the world to understand the 2-state solution is a non-starter for most Israelis.

The Likud is going to make all that happen - thanks in considerable part to the people Feiglin brought in.

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