Moshe Feiglin
Moshe Feiglin Israel news photo: Flash 90

Moshe Feiglin and his supporters have “good intentions,” but it is clear by now that their plan “has failed and caused great damage,” National Union Chairman Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz said Sunday.

Feiglin, the head of the Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) faction within Likud, has come under intense fire in the nationalist camp after failing to prevent Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu from changing Likud's constitution last week. Several nationalist Likud MKs had claimed the change was undemocratic and Feiglin – who is not a Knesset member – led the campaign against it, saying it was intended to block his faction from making headway within Likud and to make it easier for Netanyahu to bow to US pressure over Jerusalem.

Despite an energetic, emotional campaign and optimistic assessments before the internal Likud vote was held, Feiglin failed to stop the change from being adopted. He is now under attack from fellow nationalists, and not for the first time, for what they say is a misguided basic strategy that weakens the nationalist camp. Feiglin's idea of taking over the Likud from within is wrong and unachievable, they say.

'A natural outcome'

"Feiglin's loss in the vote is the natural outcome of his trying to force an unnatural act to take place,” MK Katz said. “An artificial attempt to take control of the Likud movement is not honest, and in any case is not achievable.”

In response to Feiglin's oft-stated claims that he is only trying to bring Likud back to its original platform, Ketzaleh explained that the Likud abandoned its rightist nationalist platform decades ago and what Feiglin wants to resuscitate is at best a nostalgic memory. Because the change in the Likud is a deep-rooted one, an attempt to reverse it through an invasion by external forces is doomed to fail, he elaborated. “Even if Feiglin's representatives had succeeded in making Likud decide in favor of the Land of Israel and Jerusalem -- in other words, in taking Likud's reins from Netanyahu – the Prime Minister would have set up an alternative movement, just as his predecessor Sharon did when he didn't approve of the party line.”

Over the years, Feiglin and his supporters, by weakening nationalist parties, have inadvertently assisted Likud leaders to carry out “great crimes against the Jewish people,” Katz said. “From the destruction of Gush Katif, through [the violent demolition at] Amona, up to the construction freeze in Judea and Samaria and Jerusalem – and now the danger that Jerusalem will be divided, G-d forbid,” he added.

"Encouraged by the people of 'Manhigut Yehudit' and believing the illusion that 'a better Likud' can rise that will provide the necessary support,” many religious Zionists voted for Likud time and time again", the NU leader explained. Each time, however, the religious-Zionist camp within Likud received “a resounding slap in the face.”

Ketzaleh said that the latest embarrassment should prod the religious Zionist camp to unite under one faction – a move he has been trying to advance for some time.

Flowers for a political funeral?

Another nationalist commentator, educator Meir Gross, penned an opinion piece in the Hebrew Arutz Sheva in which he suggested that Feiglin had actually helped Netanyahu pass the anti-democratic amendment by falling into his trap. The Prime Minister, he said, wanted the debate framed around Feiglin, whom the media does not like. Feiglin would have done better to keep a low profile and let Likud MKs like Danny Danon, Yariv Levin and Tzipi Hotovely lead the fight against the change. These MKs would have fought more loudly against the change if they were not perceived as doing Feiglin's bidding, he hypothesized.

As things turned out, Feiglin has helped Netanyahu cement his hold on Likud, and Netanyahu may even want to send Feiglin a bouquet of flowers as a token of gratitude, Gross added sarcastically. The same flowers could be used as a wreath in the political funeral of Manhigut Yehudit, he acidly wrote.

In the Hebrew newspaper Makor Rishon, veteran journalist and author Haggai Segal was more direct in his criticism of Feiglin. “Feiglin's main problem is a lack of humility,” he opined in his weekly column. “There is an astounding gap between his harsh rhetoric and the use of first-person speech, and his political accomplishments. His supercilious behavior only pushes the Likud upper echelon away from his ideas. On the bottom line, it also causes damage to the ideas he espouses. All of the supporters of Judea and Samaria within the [Likud] movement are mistakenly considered to be 'Feiglinites,' and it is easy for Netanyahu to ignore them. Even they want Feiglin to finally get the hint and find himself a different party.”  

Feiglin in emotional moment on the day of the poll / Israel news photo: Flash 90