I have read article after article where pundits gloatingly proclaim that Moshe Feiglin’s exit from the Likud constitutes a crushing defeat. I have heard interview after interview where the interviewer tells Moshe knowingly that remaining in the Likud for the 15 years he did was a mistake all along.
It is the same misunderstanding which people have had about Feiglin’s Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) movement all along. It stems from short-sightedness. From a focus on immediate, short term tactics, rather than long term strategy.
It is understandable that taking the long term view is difficult for many of us. The State of Israel has been, and continues to be, under a threat to its very existence. After all, what’s the point in a long term strategy if you get destroyed in the short term? This is true, and the only real answer to that challenge is faith. Because the converse is also true. What’s the point in merely surviving physically in the short term? Is that all we’re about? Surviving? The Jewish People exist for a reason. We have a purpose in this world, and it’s more than just scraping by from one crisis to the next.
Feiglin’s exit from the Likud is not indicative of a failure on his part. It is rather a failure on the part of the Likud. Feiglin was not mistaken when he joined the Likud. Based on the Likud constitution, which should be the defining document of the Likud — that is, after all, the whole purpose of a constitution — the Likud was the proper place to bring Feiglin’s plans to fruition.
The Likud old guard — and the word “old” is particularly appropriate in this case, with most members over 60 years of age — could have found the decency in themselves to obey their own laws. They didn’t have to cheat. The cynical view is that all politicians cheat, but not all of them do. And even those who do rarely cheat to the extent, and with the brazenness, that Netanyahu and his cronies did. They could have behaved more honorably than they did. The rest of the Likud leadership could have insisted that they do so. And Feiglin was right to give them that chance. To do otherwise would have been to judge the entire Likud leadership as inalterably corrupt.
What Feiglin gained during his years in the Likud cannot be underestimated. When he first launched Manhigut Yehudit, there wasn’t a media outlet that would touch him. When he first ran against Netanyahu, his campaign was hardly even covered. Since then, Feiglin became Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. He demonstrated the sort of integrity in this position that would win him the respect of even members of far left and Arab parties. He brought important issues into public focus. Medical marijuana. The corruption in the state’s dealings with medical suppliers. He stood as a moral voice opposing deals with China, which farms its own people for organs. He is now a serious player in the Israeli political scene.
Had Feiglin started his own party 15 years ago, none of this would have been possible. Had he joined one of the small, sectarian parties — which are really more like lobbies, or political action committes than real political parties — he would still be seen as the fringe personality the media treated him as 15 years ago.
The Likud failed. Utterly and finally. And Feiglin has correctly chosen to leave it. The fact that he remained in the Likud for the past few years, despite the dirty tricks played by Netanyahu, was due to his hope and his faith that people can choose to do the right thing. And indeed they can; they simply chose not to.
Feiglin leaves the Likud now, not beaten, not in disgrace, but magnanimously, moving on to new and better successes.