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Lamrot Hakol (Despite Everything)

Musings and kvetchings and Torah thoughts from an unconventional Orthodox Jew.

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"I blog, therefore I am". Clearly not true, or I wouldn't exist except every now and then.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Feiglin vs Bibi: Lessons to be Learned

On 4 March 1797, the world changed forever. For possibly the first time in history, the ruler of a nation handed over the reins of state to someone else, not because he was unable to fulfill his duties any more, and not because he was coerced, but because a piece of paper said that’s what he should do.

This was the day that George Washington gave over the Presidency of the United States to his successor, John Adams. We take this orderly transition of power for granted nowadays, but it is anything but ordinary. It is human nature for people, when they hold power, to want to retain that power.

On 29 April 2010, the Central Committee of the Likud Party voted to change the party’s constitution in order to allow the postponement of elections for, among other things, the Central Committee of the Likud. According to the Likud constitution, elections for that body are to be held every four years. The current Central Committee, however, has been in office for double that. This, and not the precedent of George Washington, is the norm in politics, and has been throughout history.

A lot has been made about the loss of the opposition within the Likud Party, which was led by Moshe Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit faction. Some have said that if he couldn’t even persuade one third of the Central Committee to vote against the change in the constitution, he will certainly never succeed in rising to the leadership of the Likud Party.

The point these critics are missing is that Feiglin managed to convince nearly a quarter of the Likud Central Committee to vote against their own tenure as committee members. Presented with the option of extending their own power indefinitely, hundreds of committee members chose, instead, to vote according to their principles.

And make no mistake. Principles are what Moshe Feiglin and Manhigut are all about. Feiglin himself could get a Knesset seat any time he wished, if he were willing to back down from his struggle for the leadership of Israel. He could join the ranks of the many and sundry – and mostly irrelevant – small parties, which operate more as lobbies or political action committees than they do as political parties. The Powers That Be in the Likud would be more than happy to buy Feiglin off by giving him and his supporters plum positions within the Likud. So long as he was willing to forego his quest for leadership.

Pragmatism is one of the biggest temptations, particularly in the realm of politics, which is often described as “the art of the possible.” When the State of Israel faces existential threats from without and within, the prospect of patiently working towards a change in the leadership of the nation seems far less attractive than taking immediate action, even if that action won’t bring any long term results.

Feiglin’s method is a mature one. He works for long term results rather than immediate gratification. Maybe that doesn’t seem practical to some. But what’s practical about a tiny Jewish state in a massive Arab sea?

We need to remember as well that elections for party head in the Likud are open to all registered Likud members, and not only the Central Committee. That is where the difference can be made. Everyone who refused to join the Likud because they didn’t want to empower Netanyahu and his cronies is ignoring the long term reality. No small party will push Netanyahu out of power, except possibly into the hands of Labor. The only way to bring the Likud back to the principles for which it was founded is to take it back from the inside. Only in this way will we ever have Jewish Leadership in Israel.

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