Amichai Chikli
Amichai ChikliArutz Sheva

Years ago, the eminent Columbia sociologist Robert King Merton coined the descriptive concept of “In group virtues and Out group vices.” What this meant was that identical conduct was regarded differently depending on the perception of the ones exhibiting such behavior.

For example: “I am persistent, but you are stubborn.”

Which brings us to Amichai Chikli, number five on the Yamina party list. Amichai has refused to go along with his party leader Naftali Bennett, stating that during the recent election campaign, Yamina had told its supporters it would not join a Lapid-led nor a Meretz-included government.

In other words, it would not do what party leader Bennett seems intent on doing right now.

As a matter of principle, Chikli has said that he will not go along with this, and will not support the effort to fashion such a “unity” government.

By this statement, Chikli has “emerged from the shadows” to distinguish himself from the pack.

As if this was his motivation.

I am pleased and privileged to know Amichai and have become his unabashed admirer. As a founder and the leader of the highly regarded Tavor pre-Army mechina, Amichai has become one of the leading Zionist educators in Israel.

While he is not religious in the traditional sense, he speaks about Zionism and Israel in a manner and with the depth of feeling and conviction reminiscent of Israel's first Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi and revered Relgious Zionist iconic sage, Rav Avraham HaCohen Kook.

Amichai has taken a page out of Menachem Begin’s playbook, making a pronouncement based not only on principle, but on honesty and accountability. For this, many would call him “ideological.”

“Ideological” is the Out group depiction of “principled.” It connotes rigid, hidebound, immune to compromise and the nuances of a complicated world.

Labelling Chikli as ideological is implicitly cynical, for it assumes that it is right and proper for a politician to say whatever he thinks needs to be said to his potential voters (also known as “pandering”), only to completely disregard all of it once he is elected.

But then, Chikli is not a political pro; he was seeking to become a public servant. How quaint, how naïve. Didn’t anyone sit him down and give him a tutorial on the realities of being an elected official?

So Chikli has decided to prioritize consistency over expedience. And a great many have a hard time with that, and assume he must have baser, more self-serving motivations for his stance.

Of course this says much more about the beholders than it does about Chikli, who is simply but powerfully pointing out that Yamina voters were putting their faith in the party to do exactly the opposite of what Naftali Bennett is preparing to do.

So, in my own politically naïve view, we should be grateful to Chikli for his principled stance. But there is another reason to be grateful to Amichai’s determination: he is implicitly pointing out that the Emperor of any such “unity” government will have no clothes.

Chikli is basically pointing to the reality that, short of dethroning Bibi, there is nothing holding the ragtag ABB (Anyone But Bibi) coalition together. As a politically astute friend pointed out to me, do you think there will be any agreement on appointing Supreme Court Justices between Ayelet Shaked and Yair Golan?

Chikli’s stance casts a stark light on what can be expected from such a government. Why would it be any more functional than the current unity government where the ideological divide between the two major groups was significantly narrower than what will mark this one in the making?

Ironically, while he will be removed in the short term, it might very well be Netanyahu himself who will emerge from this saga as the ultimate victor. Bibi will be the head of the opposition and will never cease to point out to his citizenry that they got what they paid for, and watch out for what you wished for.

Netanyahu knows what happened when Ehud Barak tried to cobble together his short lived, but nonetheless destructive, unity government in 1999, and knows that such a fate is likely to await a government led by a Prime Minister whose party garnered all of seven mandates.

Chikli’s insistence on distancing himself from hypocrisy is a great public service. He is showing respect for his voters. He is reminding us that what a candidate says actually matters.

Above all, he is teaching us, in his inimitable Zionist educator manner, that principles, especially those designed to protect the Jewish and democratic character and, yes, soul of the Nation, are more important than the narrow personal agendas of its prospective leaders.

Douglas Altabef is the Chairman of the Board of Im Tirtzu, Israel’s largest grassroots Zionist organization. He is also a Director of the Israel Independence Fund.