Saturday, December 22, 2012

The Feiglin Factor

1. First of all, there was an error in one in one of the numbers in
the data from the public opinion survey that I posted on Friday. And
the corrected number is interesting and significant and has some
important implications.

Here is the error (with my apologies). I wrote: "Of the general
population, when asked if they favor the existence of a Palestinian
state, 66% OPPOSE, 23% favor, and 11% are undecided or have a more
ambiguous position." I accidentally switched the numbers for those in
favor and those undecided (dem agin' eyes of mine!). The correct
numbers for responses to this question are that ONLY 11% said they
favor such a "two state solution," 66% oppose, and 23% are undecided
or gave some other non-decisive answer.

Aside from not wanting to leave the error uncorrected, that 11%
number is important. The survey appears to have included Arabs in the
sample, and Arabs are 18% of Israelis. The 11% of Israelis who say
they still favor such a "two-state solution" or a Palestinian state
are less than the portion of Arabs in the population.

If indeed the 11% response in the survey is mostly Arabs, this
shows that the proportion of Israeli Jews who favor a "Palestinian
state" or think that peace can be achieved with such a "state" is
close to zero. The support for the "solution" of the Left has
disintegrated among Israeli Jews. Oslo is dead, not just on the
ground but among the Israeli Jewish population. Netanyahu can pay lip
service all he wants to such a "solution" but there is no support at
all for further Oslo-style "experimenting."

I cannot emphasize enough how important and dramatic this change
is. In the mid-1990s, support in Israel for Oslo was so overwhelming
that I felt all the time like a leper. My neighborhood in Haifa is
filled with middle class yuppies. On almost every car there was a
pro-Oslo sticker. I doubt there were more than a handful of opponents
to Oslo within a 2 kilometer radius from myself. The Israeli media
were almost unanimously ecstatic in support of Oslo. It was almost
impossible to read a dissenting opinion, and on the TV and radio it
really was literally impossible to hear any dissent.

The University of course was far worse. I do not recall a single
faculty member other than myself who said that Oslo was an idiotic
idea that would not work and would produce escalation in Arab
aggression and violence against Israel. My kids had reputations in
their school for being the ones with the crazy father who did not
understand that Oslo would produce peace. At official University
rites and ceremonies, speaker after speaker proclaimed Oslo peace and
the two-state solution as just around the corner, statements that
invariably triggered my walking out. Seemingly intelligent people
were swept along by the bandwagon, planning out international
pipelines, business and trade deals, joint university programs - with
the Palestinians and other Arab neighbors. I have visited
psychiatric wards, but the feeling there cannot compare to the feeling
of walking the street in 1994 Israel.

And today the consensus among Israeli Jews OPPOSING Oslo and the
"two state solution" is almost as broad as was that pro-Oslo consensus
back in the days of the Cuckoo Nest.

2. The time has come to clear the air about Moshe Feiglin.

I have long had ambiguous feelings about Feiglin and his
political activities. Many are asking me about him these days. I
would like to explain why Feiglin has morphed into a disgrace.

I was among the early supporters of Feiglin when he was organizing
anti-Oslo mass street demonstrations as part of what he called the "Zo
Artseinu" organization in the 1990s. I praised him and his efforts.
I denounced the persecution of Feiglin by the Judicial Left when it
decided to prosecute him for "sedition," after he and his protesters
had blocked a traffic intersection. I opposed blocking the
intersection on tactical grounds, because it antagonizes people, but
lots of protesters in Israel do it, including the Left and the
Histadrut. Prosecuting Feiglin for "sedition" because of it was just
an ugly side of Israel's anti-democratic entrenched Left. In fact I
consider it an act of Leftwing Fascism. And like most of the outrages
of the Judicial Left, it was carried out under a Likud government.

I had two serious criticisms of Feiglin's political behavior and
agenda, both of which I think ultimately reflected his poor judgment.
I long ago communicated both criticisms to Feiglin himself directly.
The first is that he failed to distance himself from Kahanists. His
number two back then, who is still his number two today, is Samuel
Sackett, an open Kahanist. Feiglin's refusal to distance himself from
Sackett is one reason for Feiglin's chronic weakness and political
failures. The second problem is that Feiglin is basically a theocrat,
even though he insists he is not, a person whose policies ultimately
rest upon doing politically what he thinks religion requires
(regarding strategic questions) and leaving the rest for God to sort
out. That is also a self-defeating position.

Feiglin is a nice guy, a truly religious guy, speaks well, and
most of his other priorities are spot on.

Feiglin's other perpetual problem is his insistence on running as
part of the Likud, as a small internal opposition to the party machine
that controls Likud, hoping that grassroots support will push him to
power. He has stubbornly fought this Quixotic battle over and over
again, losing every time, rather than throwing his support behind
non-Likud smaller movements or parties that are closer to his
political philosophy. The Likud machine is not so dainty and
vulnerable as he thinks and will always confine him to being little
more than a small nuisance factor within the party.

All the above explains why Feiglin fails, and it raises
questions about his judgment. But his newest behavior raises the most
serious questions about his sincerity and integrity.

The rising star of the Israeli anti-Oslo "Right" is Naftali
Bennett and his Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) party. He has galvanized
not only the rump leftovers from the old National Religious Party, but
he is almost a superstar among secularist college students and other
secularist Zionists in Israel. He draws listeners to his talks by the
hundreds. A talk he gave this past week at the Technion, which was
NOT about politics, produced a crowd that overflowed the hall. He
speaks well, is a bit of a legend in his time (the young Bennett is a
very rich high-tech entrepreneur and he made his money on his own and
honestly, with no political favors). He is a dynamo, and **THE** guy
worth watching in the coming election.

Bennett in a sense is also a more-intelligent Feiglin than
Feiglin himself. He is also religious and militantly anti-Oslo.
(Fair disclosure - Bennett's American parents are friends of mine.)

A sensible Feiglin would realize that this is the golden
opportunity he always dreamed of. Bennett is polling at the moment 11
or 12 Knesset seats (out of 120). Feiglin could pop this up to 20 or
so, making Bennett's party perhaps the second largest in the next
Knesset and the number-two power in the next government, by publicly
breaking with the Likud Party and joining Bennett, calling on his
supporters to do the same. Feiglin would not be the number one in
such a new party and would need to dump Sackett to join in. But the
result could be a real political alternative that was honest, clean,
and had an unambiguous anti-Oslo ideological vision. Unlike most
Likud members, the new party would not consist of incompetents who are
in politics because they are incapable of finding a job. And a strong
Bennett-led party that absorbed the Feiglin "camp" would be a major
factor in affecting Israeli history over the next decade and beyond.

Even without the Feiglin support, Bennett and his party already
have Netanyahu foaming at the mouth. Netanyahu knows that a
middle-sized Bennett party would join his coalition only by shoving it
to the right, blocking Netanyahu's silly ideas about freezing
settlements and appeasing the "Palestinians" or their US State
Department advocates. Netanyahu's range of maneuver would be sharply

And Netanyahu has been increasingly directing his rhetoric
AGAINST Bennett and Bayit Yehudi, rather than the Labor Party, urging
Israeli voters from the Right (keep in mind the above public opinion
poll) to stick with Likud rather than voting Bennett.

So where is Feiglin in all this? The answer is that Feiglin has
agreed to be Netanyahu's button man in attacking Bennett! After being
spat upon (I had a different bodily emission in mind but decided to
spare you the image) by the Likud leadership for two decades, Feiglin
is suddenly performing Netanyahu's dirty work against Bennett! Even
though Bennett represents Feiglin's agenda and priorities FAR better
than Bibi.

You can draw your own conclusions from this. Mine is that
Feiglin's stock as a political thinker and man of vision is crashing
to the curb. Feiglin's role in this is a shande.

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