Moshe Feiglin
Moshe FeiglinIsrael news photo: Yoni Kempinski

Moshe Feiglin, head of the Manhigut Yehudit oppositional faction within the Likud party, has decided to leave the Likud along with his movement, Makor Rishon reported Friday.

Feiglin has reportedly called a meeting of the central activists in Manhigut Yehudit for Sunday, in which he intends to announce his decision. He will recommend that the movement seek its political home outside Likud. On the record, Feiglin would only tell Makor Rishon that “we are in a period of internal inquiries that will last about two weeks and we are involving the activists in the dilemmas.”

Speaking with Arutz Sheva's Uzi Baruch Friday, Feiglin did not deny the report but said: “The movement already announced a week ago that it would be choosing its options vis-a-vis Netanyahu – including the possibility of another contest with Netanyahu a year from now, as well as leaving the Likud."

A senior source within Manhigut Yehudit denied the Makor Rishon report and also said that the meeting of activists will not be held this Sunday but one week later.

Feiglin joined the Likud 10 years ago, out of a conviction that the multi-party system does not really work in Israel, and that the only way to seize leadership is through the largest party, Likud. He vied twice for party leadership and failed both times. Feiglin was in the party's 20th slot for the Knesset in the last elections, but legalistic and political maneuvers by Binyamin Netanyahu forced him out of that slot and prevented his entry into the Knesset. It should be noted that Feiglin never seemed to content himself with the goal of getting elected to a Knesset seat, but was intent from the outset on becoming the party's leader.

Before forming Manhigut Yehudit, Feiglin led 'Zo Artzenu', a high-profile protest movement against the Oslo process.

Feiglin, who is considered a bright and creative mind by his supporters and foes alike, also writes a weekly column in one of the leading news websites.

Netanyahu nemesis

Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu has seen Feiglin as his nemesis within Likud, and accused him of trying to effect a hostile takeover of the Likud with the aim of turning it into a religious party. “We are not an extremist messianic party; we are a national and liberal movement,” he said ahead of the latest confrontation with Feiglin.

That confrontation took place late April and centered on an internal Likud vote to change the party's constitution in a way that would put off to 2011 the elections to its central committee. The move was seen as a bid to prevent Feiglin from gaining strength in the party's grassroots leadership and to give Netanyahu time to add more moderate grassroots members to Likud, to offset the ones that Feiglin had brought in.

Feiglin said the showdown would ultimately determine the fate of Jerusalem. Netanyahu, he warned emotionally, wants to silence opposition in the Likud because he has made a secret pact with US President Barack Obama that involves partitioning Jerusalem. Several Likud Knesset members, including Danny Danon, Tzipi Hotovely and Yariv Levin, also opposed Netanyahu's move – but Netanyahu succeeded in passing the resolution anyway.

This last failure is what seems to have convinced Feiglin to leave the Likud and essentially abandon his decade-long project. 

A source within the National Union estimated Friday that the NU would issue a call to Likud members who followed Feiglin to join the NU instead. NU leader MK Yaakov (Ketzaleh) Katz has said that Feiglin's political strategy was not completely above board in that it called on people who did not really vote for Likud or believe in its path to become official party members. That enabled them to have a voice in determining the party's list but it was not certain that they voted for the party in the ensuing elections.