Josef Olmert
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The new Likud minus Zeev Jabotinsky

Gone are the party's traditional respect for minority rights and the rule of law

The portrait of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founding father of the Revisionist Zionist movement, the mother party of the current Likud Party is always in display when Likud holds its conferences. Clearly, the party takes pride in commemorating the leader and his political legacy. As a lifelong proud adherent of the great man, I have a simple request from his presumed current followers; please remove the picture from now on. The “Teacher of the Generation,” as we called him so fondly in the heyday of the Beitar youth movement [not the current soccer team…] really belonged to another generation, not to the current one. The current Likud party is no longer the Jabotinsky movement.

This is not because Benny Begin, Dan Meridor and Michael Eitan were not elected to serve. Not one of the three deserved to be elected due to name or family connection. They and others like them should have been elected so that the current and most likely governing party of Israel would be what a governing party of Israel should be; a party governing from the center, and not from the extreme; not Leftwing [luckily, not a realistic possibility…], but also not from the right [as seems so likely to be].

A classic Jabotinsky movement should adhere to the immortal line of the Teacher:

There he shall dwell fulfilled with plenty and happiness, the son of Arabia [i.e. the Moslem], the son of Nazareth [i.e. the Christian] and my son [i.e. the Jew].

So, in a Likud party which really upholds the legacy of Jabotinsky and lives by it, there should not be those who make their political capital by inflaming day in and day out against Arab citizens of Israel, and trying to legislate against them.

To be sure, some Israeli Arab leaders work hard, too hard, to make ordinary Jewish citizens, not just Likud activists, worried, irritated and suspicious about their intentions. I personally know some of them, and on occasion, got into the ritualistic, verbal fist fight with them. But then, let us remember the teachings of our great luminary, and understand that to be a minority is not so convenient and simple. We should remember that from our own long national history of persecution and suffering.

No, as disciples of Jabotinski we are committed to the preservation of Israel as the eternal national state of our people, but we also need to remember that he visualized an Arab president or prime minister in a state with a guaranteed Jewish majority. So, a party of Jabotinsky should be the one to advocate and initiate the full integration of Arabs in every organ of government and society, and this is not the Likud party of today, and it has been like that for years.

Now, the party of Jabotinsky runs to the Knesset elections in one bloc with Avigdor Liberman’s Israel Beitenu party. The latter is a man of high caliber and integrity, so he openly states his desire to separate from Israel’s Arab minority, at least to start the process, by creating loyalty litmus tests for them. Sincere he is, but no, not a real follower of Jabotinsky, regardless of the claim by his party to being the present-day Jabotinsky movement. They are not, and now they are combined with Likud into one political bloc. A travesty of what a REAL Likud should be. Begin and Meridor did not raise their voice against this. Eitan did, but all three paid the highest political price, as ordinary Likud members got their cue from Netanyahu’s move, and selected a list of candidates which will make Liberman feel REALLY at home.

They also promoted to senior positions in the list some who do not even pay lip service to the principle of the rule of law. Menachem Begin, Jabotinsky’s adherent and successor taught us that “there are judges In Jerusalem,” and accepting this basic tenet of true democracy should be a guiding light to the party of Jabotinsky.

This is not to negate the right of legislators to question former president of the Supreme Court of Israel Aharon Barak’s debatable concept that “no areas in life are outside of law,” but not through legislation aimed at going to the other extreme, and stifling the Supreme Court altogether. Not even when the honorable judges rule against settlers and settlements. A Jabotinsky movement is clearly a movement of settlers and settlements, supporting the right of Jews to live everywhere in their historic homeland. But this right is still open for Judicial questioning, should comply with the law, and is subjected to the decisions of the elected political leadership. Our brother settlers need to understand that they are not above the state. It is not proper, to put it mildly, for a senior minister in the government to negotiate with settlers how and when they will be willing to abide by decisions of the courts.

Remember Migron. This happened when Begin, Meridor and Eitan were still in. There is no telling what can happen when they are out and Liberman is in. I dread even the thought of our unforgettable leader living today and witnessing what is happening in the party claiming to uphold his legacy.

About the Author
Dr Josef Olmert, a Middle East expert, is currently an adjunct professor at the University of South Carolina