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Likud Voters: We Don’t Want the Left By: P. David Hornik
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, December 10, 2008

"From this evening on it can’t be covered up anymore, once again the Likud is held captive by the extreme Right, which is trying to get to power and realize its extremist policies together with Benjamin Netanyahu,” announced the Likud’s main rival, Ehud Olmert’s ruling Kadima Party, in reaction to Monday night’s Likud primaries.

The list of the top 42 vote-getters in the primaries reveals a strong showing for the Likud “rebels”—paradoxically-named loyalists who stayed in the party when then-prime minister Ariel Sharon broke away from Likud to form Kadima late in 2005; for security mavens like Likud veteran Yuval Steinitz (9th place) and newcomer Moshe Yaalon (8th place); and for Moshe Feiglin, an ideological purist who stresses religion and came in 20th.

The far-Left Meretz Party, now holding 5 seats in the 120-member Knesset, also spoke up, with MK Zehava Gal-On calling the results “nightmarish” and MK Avshalom Vilon saying that “The combination of Feiglin, Yaalon and the rest of the ‘rebels’ is the sure way to reach a new political [paralysis] which will guarantee more violence in the Middle East….”

And for MK Eitan Cabel of Kadima’s main coalition partner, the Labor Party, the “Netanyahu-Feiglin list symbolizes dire hopelessness, which leaves no room to pursue real peace.”

Later on Tuesday Prime Minister Olmert himself—a staunch Likudnik all his life until following Sharon to Kadima three years ago—got into the act with a statement that “The Likud was, the Likud is, and the Likud will remain a right-wing party that will isolate Israel in a corner and return us to times that we wanted to escape from. If [Netanyahu], [Benny] Begin [who also scored high], Yaalon and Feiglin come to power, it will cause significant diplomatic damage to Israel.”

Seeming to contradict himself about the Likud’s history, Olmert added that “the Likud used to be a party of peace when I was part of it, and now it is unfortunately a right-wing extremist party.”

A few things are worth saying here.

1. Netanyahu himself—concerned about wresting centrist voters from Kadima—clearly wanted a less right-leaning list and, particularly fearful of Feiglin, brought in three figures seen as having leftish views including former Likudnik Dan Meridor, former police commissioner Asaf Hefetz, and former general Uzi Dayan. Of the three, though, only Meridor came in reasonably well at 17th while Hefetz and Dayan finished way down at 38th and 42nd, respectively—compared to Feiglin’s 20th.

The February 10 national elections will tell whether Netanyahu’s fears of alienating centrist Israelis, to Kadima’s advantage, are well founded. Feiglin is probably an Obama-type figure who—in the unlikely event he should ever be premier—would adjust his views to the complexities and urgencies of reality.

Many Likudniks were indeed irked by Netanyahu’s bringing leftish figures into the party, feeling that there were already enough of them in Kadima, Labor, and Meretz—which, for their part, have not been inviting right-wing figures into their ranks. Meanwhile Likudniks and other Israelis who see figures like Yaalon, Steinitz, and Begin as representing exactly the mix of sophistication, realism, and resolve that Israel has been lacking are, of course, pleased with Monday night’s results.

2. If the Israeli Left (along with purported centrists like Olmert), in its reactions, is outdoing even itself in shrillness, it’s because it’s scared, with recent polls showing Likud and the Center-Right bloc in general way out in front. Like its American counterpart the Israeli Left focuses on individuals—“Feiglin! Yaalon!”—without actually considering, or trying to intelligently refute, the views of its rivals.

Particularly striking is, in fact, the bracketing in some of the above quotes of Feiglin and Yaalon, the former being indeed simplistic in some of his views while the latter is himself an ex-left-winger and ex-chief of staff whose nuanced thinking is an empirical response to the dire mess the Left has created for Israel since the early 1990s. But rather, of course, than think about anything Yaalon has to say, the Left has a better solution of turning his name into a reflexive buzzword for all that’s outside the pale of its own ironclad verities.

The Israeli Left also shows its usual appalling irresponsibility by—in a world in which Israel is the object of boycott and divestment movements, the whipping boy of the UN, vilified as a satanic force everywhere from Middle Eastern mosques to American campuses—casting Israel’s probable next ruling party as certain to wreck peace and plunge the region into darkness.

3. Recent poll results indicate that for a solid majority of Israelis now favoring Likud and other right-wing parties, the real “nightmare” is not Moshe Feiglin coming in 20th in the Likud primaries but yet another weekend of bombardment from Gaza without an Israeli response, an ongoing massive Hezbollah buildup to the north with again no “response” from Israel’s “leaders” but the mouthing of banal statements, yet another mass release of dangerous prisoners to the Palestinian Authority, with an ever-escalating Iranian threat in the background toward which the current Israeli government has formed no strategy except to rely on a clearly dispirited, disunited West.

Netanyahu’s apparent belief that the “Right”—realism about the threats Israel faces and the indispensability of the remaining small territories it controls in withstanding them—still lacks sufficient electoral appeal to Israelis is hopefully wrong.

P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Beersheva. He blogs at http://pdavidhornik.typepad.com/. He can be reached at pdavidh2001@yahoo.com.

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