Israeli Elections: Likud Vs. Jewish Home
One of the hottest topics currently being discussed in the broadly defined national camp in Israel is whether to vote for a seemingly more right-wing Likud or for a revitalized Jewish Home party in the upcoming January elections. With quality candidates such as Yariv Levin, Tzipi Hotovely and Moshe Feiglin in the Likud versus Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and Uri Ariel in the Jewish Home, not surprisingly many people are having a difficult time deciding whom to cast their vote for on January 22.
For me, however, the choice is rather simple and the title of The Who’s classic rock and roll hit “We Won’t Get Fooled Again” says it all. In other words, although the candidates with a more nationalistic orientation certainly fared well in the recent Likud primaries, and Moshe Feiglin, instead of Dan Meridor, will undoubtedly strengthen the ideological backbone of the party, for the most part it’s basically the same people who were elected in 2009 and who were subsequently unable, despite their good intentions, to prevent the building freeze, the Bar Ilan speech and the evictions from both the Ulpana neighborhood and Migron. Similarly, they failed to prevent the Prime Minister from caving in to pressure from both the media and the attorney general on several key bills designed to curtail the ever-expanding power of the courts, and they were likewise unsuccessful in their attempts to have the Prime Minister adopt the findings of the Levy Report on the Legal Status of Building in Judea and Samaria.
This being the case, why should we expect anything different this time around? After all, Benjamin Netanyahu is still the head of the Likud and as the last four years have taught us, he is the one who ultimately makes the decisions.
Moreover, although most agree that the Likud merger with Yisrael Beiteinu was simply a way for Netanyahu to all but guarantee a victory in the upcoming elections, it’s quite possible that the Prime Minister had another reason for joining forces with Avigdor Lieberman. Assuming that politically speaking Netanyahu is the same Netanyahu, then the merger with Yisrael Beiteinu will easily allow Netanyahu to continue with his policy of neutralizing what he considers to be the more right wing elements of his own Likud party.
For in the event that the prime minister is unable to enforce party discipline on a key ideological issue, a scenario in the Likud that is almost certain to happen, his partnership with Lieberman means that he will now have at his disposal a party that is based upon near total discipline to the demands of its own chairman. Thus, even if several members of his own Likud party are opposed to his stance on a certain issue or on a specific vote, all Netanyahu needs to do is to close ranks with Lieberman in order to circumvent the will of his own party.
Equally important, on the key issue of Palestinian calls for statehood west of the Jordan River, the realization of which many consider would pose a threat to the continued existence of the Jewish state, Lieberman, like Netanyahu, publicly supports a version of the two-state solution.
Considering all of the above, it’s difficult to take serious the recent declarations about building in E1 or ads being placed in right-leaning newspapers with pictures of Netanyahu, Feiglin and Hotovely ironically appearing on the same page. After all, the real test is not a month or two before the elections but rather a month or two after the elections. Moreover, the fact that Netanyahu supposedly doesn’t want the Jewish Home in any future coalition only strengthens the point that the Prime Minister, despite his newly discovered right-wing stance, really doesn’t intend on veering to the right after the elections.
For all of these reasons, the choice for the Jewish Home should be obvious. For not only do the respective leaders of the two merged parties, Naftali Bennett and Uri Ariel, oppose the suicidal two-state solution, from the outset they have projected a clear pro-Israel line that resonates with more and more Israeli voters from all walks of life. Moreover, the genuinely positive atmosphere being created by diverse candidates relinquishing their own individual egos in order to harmoniously work together for a larger cause, has left many in Israel with the feeling that finally something positive is happening in the ugly world of Israeli politics.
In addition, the greater the party’s success in the January elections, the more difficult it will be for Netanyahu to keep them out of any future coalition. Needless to say, the Jewish Home’s presence in the next coalition would make it more difficult for the prime minister to continue with his habit of ignoring the more right-wing members of his own Likud party.
This personal endorsement of the Jewish Home, however, and in fact the future growth of the party, is contingent upon the Jewish Home finally parting ways with its “sector mentality” background. Although people like Naftali Bennett, Ayelet Shaked and many others appear to understand this point, there are still some voices in the larger Jewish Home world that are stuck in the sector mentality. Such people fail to understand that although the party sprouted from the beautiful ideals and morality of the Religious-Zionist world and even still carries these assets with it, it is no longer a narrow “Religious Zionist party” which is meant to cater to the needs of one specific sector but rather it has evolved into a broader party which is meant to embrace and eventually provide leadership for all of the Jewish people. If Naftali Bennett and others around him can succeed in conveying this message both internally to the party and externally to the voters, then the sky is the limit for the party.
The ultimate goal however, in spite of everything written above, is that eventually all the good, quality MKs will sit together in one party. For that to happen, the Jewish Home needs to blossom into a party of at least 15-20 seats while concomitantly the Likud needs to continue to strengthen itself ideologically. If both of these happen then it’s realistic that within 5-10 years a true nationalist leader will be elected as the head of the Likud. When that happens, the two parallel parties will truly be superfluous, a precondition which will then allow them to merge into one in order to finally have a powerful leadership party based upon the requisite ideals and vision to lead the nation. Moreover, it’s irrelevant whether this merged party will be called the Likud, the Jewish Home, or some other name, since the party is merely the vessel to provide the leadership. God willing, that day is drawing close.
This article originally appeared on the author’s blog.