Yisrael Hayom Interviews Moshe Feiglin: "Israel is Still Stuck in Oslo”
Translated from Yisrael Hayom
25 years ago, when the Oslo Accords were signed, Moshe Feiglin became a public figure with his movement, Zo Artzeinu. •Since then, he has challenged Netanyahu in the Likud, left the party, established a new political framework, Zehut – and remains the outsider (and surprisingly, the liberal) of the Right • An interview in honor of his new book.
As we commemorate the 25th anniversary of the Oslo Accords, which have brought with them much more blood and tears than peace and security, Moshe Feiglin is also commemorating his emergence onto the public stage. That happened when he established his first movement, Zo Artzeinu, which grew out of the insane reality of those Oslo days; a reality in which they eyes of respected leaders, experienced officers and astute commentators became blind, could not correctly analyze what was happening and were rendered incapable of identifying the abyss to which they were leading the nation.
The Zo Artzeinu movement was one of the lone voices that managed in those days to crack the wall of imaginary utopia that Israel’s leaders and public opinion chefs created for the enchanted masses. By applying relatively violent methods, such as blocking of traffic and illegal protests, they accentuated the dangers of the Accords in real time.
Feiglin does not feel that he is coming full circle at this anniversary. After he entered the Likud, managing after years to position himself on the Likud Knesset roster, he was ejected and left the party in order to establish a new political framework. Feiglin thinks that his work is not over. That the Oslo Accords are still with us, alive and kicking. And that the religious public, who he calls ‘faith-based’, is beginning to slowly ripen to the idea of national leadership. Not as a crutch for the Likud at the helm of the national camp, but as the head of the camp.
Feiglin’s new book, Israel’s Quixotic Quest for Normalcy, has recently been released. The book describes the path Feiglin has taken from the establishment of Zo Artzeinu until now, from a personal perspective. It reflects the reality of life in Israel over the past 25 years.
What is the book about?
“The book tells about the transformation from the Zionism of existence and survival to the Zionism of destiny. The story is my struggle and the struggle of Zo Artzeinu 25 years ago, from the beginning of Oslo. The story begins with Oslo. But untypically, I did not take our success – our prominence on the public stage following our traffic-blocking protests and more – into the political arena. Instead, I tried to analyze the root of the problem. I understood that the only way to find a solution was to understand the problem at its source.”
Feiglin says that one of the proofs that the other rightist parties did not find the root of the problem is the fact that when Binyamin Netanyahu was elected in 1996, he went and hugged Arafat. “Israel is still caught in the Oslo paradigm,” he says. “One way or another, everyone accepts the idea of dividing the Land. There is no other body that brings a fundamental alternative to Oslo except for the party that I have founded, the Zehut party.”
“There is no Demographic Problem”
But the new party was not Feiglin’s first step into politics. At the beginning of his political path, his ideology was based on the assumption that a true turn-about could only be accomplished by means of the ruling party, the Likud.
“I understood that the solution was not on the accepted axis of Right and Left, but instead, that Israel needed a different kind of leadership, motivated by its Jewish identity. I established Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership movement. This movement was meant to create the tools with which to actualize our ideology within the ruling party. When this attempt was exhausted, we established an independent political solution. This book tells a fascinating personal story, enmeshed with the story of all Israelis.”
Feiglin believes that “the IDF is stronger today than ever, but is incapable of dealing with a kite. All of this is the result of the Oslo mentality, which Israeli society and politics – both Right and Left – have adopted. The alternative is to abandon our desire to be a nation like all other nations. This is what the book does. The underlying premise of Oslo was the attempt to determine that Israel is a state of all its citizens and not a Jewish state. Those who consider Oslo to be a solely political or security agreement, and don’t understand the importance of the state’s identity; those who understand Oslo on the simplistic terms of peace, territory, Arabs, settlements – cannot create an alternative. Naftali Bennett, for example, talks about autonomy for Arabs and divides between Area C, which he wants to annex, and Area A, which he wants to turn into an Arab autonomy. But all of this talk is Oslo-speech. There is no difference between Bennett’s autonomy plan and Netanyahu’s curbed autonomy plan."
“The Left knows that Oslo failed, but the Right defines itself only as anti-Left. It has no real alternative. I remember Peres shouting at Netanyhau, when he was the head of the Opposition, “What is your alternative?” Netanyahu remained silent. He did not have an answer. He still does not have an answer. The Right – both religious and secular – has no answers. This book is an attempt to provide answers.”
Let’s print a spoiler. What is the answer?
“The name of the book testifies to Israel’s desire to fit into the Middle East as per the vision of Shimon Peres, who spoke of the need to be normal at any price, and brought us to the least normal reality possible. We must focus on our identity. If we understand who we are, we can establish a society that lives with itself in peace. And from that peace with itself, it can establish peaceful relations with its neighbors.
So what is the solution?
“The solution, of course, is to vote for Zehut,” he laughs. “But seriously, the direct political solution is to erase Oslo. Completely. To restore the military regime to Judea, Samaria and Gaza. When Israel had military control of those areas, our situation was paradise, by any measure, compared with the situation today – both for Jews and for the Arabs. There was freedom of movement throughout Judea and Samaria. We must remember that currently, 95% of the residents of the Gaza Strip hold a UN refugee card, which requires Europe to allow them into its borders.”
“Contrary to what the fear-mongers say, there is no demographic threat. Whoever sees the real numbers knows that there is a solid, growing Jewish majority. When we start to encourage relocation and distribute a generous emigration package to those who leave, the numbers will be even more significant.”
“Already today, there are ghost towns in Judea and Samaria. They are leaving anyway. We just have to strengthen that trend. This is our Land, not their land. Our goal is for the large cities like Gaza to be the Riviera of the Middle East, under the Israeli flag. Those who wish to remain, will get a residency card. There will also be a citizenship track that will include loyalty to the State and military service. Very few will merit that. Obviously, anyone who was involved in terror will not be eligible.”
“The Likud Harmed me Politically”
Look how you change your worldview. For years, you claimed that the only way to make a change was through the ruling party. Today you are running in an independent party. All the years that you were in the Likud, they said that you were an outsider, and today you prove that they were right. What were you doing in the Likud?
“I think that I was right. It was not a mistake to enter the Likud. The Likud was a tool with which to actualize the goal of creating Jewish leadership for Israel. I always ran for chairmanship of the Likud so that no one would doubt that we aimed for the top. When we came to a dead end, there were two alternatives: To stay at the wheel while fooling the public – like a bus driver who forgets to tell his passengers that they have passed their station and keeps driving. Or to think of a different solution, like establishing a new movement. I had my power and status in the Likud. Our activists would have remained. But if I had remained, I would have been fooling them. As soon as I understood that the path to leadership of the Likud was closed to me, I had to resign and create a new political tool, which is what I did.”
“By the way, I always said and wrote that on the day that the Likud would turn out to be a tool that cannot bring us to our goal – we have no place there. I always ran for chairmanship of the Likud, even though that harmed me politically.”
When they attacked you, you always said that you are the real Likud. That the others had strayed from the path. That is not how it turned out.
“There is something to that. The Likud was established by Revisionists and Beitar members. It could be that from a truly essential, non-political angle, these ideas could not really mature in the Likud. But what created the political ability of Netanyahu to show me the door was not him, but mainly the settlement proponents who I registered for the Likud – who were not ripe enough for these ideas.”
What do you mean?
There were polls that showed that the Likud could maintain its strength even with me at its head. But there were Religious Zionists who were not ready for that. When we entered the Likud, we registered 22 thousand new members. 12 thousand of them were eligible to vote. These are numbers that nobody else managed to enlist. Minister Chaim Katz reached perhaps a third of that number. Everyone will tell you that with numbers like that, and with the right deals, I could have been chairman of the party. So why didn’t that happen? Because we are used to being a fifth wheel. We can’t lead, all that we can do is influence. When I registered Religious Zionists to the Likud and said that our goal is to be number one – a sizeable portion of them saw that as a way to influence – not to lead.”
“In my opinion, Netanyahu is the most talented prime minister Israel has ever had. I call him Zionism’s Last Mohican. He is busy from morning to night with survival, amazing juggling that maneuvers between Obama, the Arabs, the Ultra-Orthodox, societal rifts. In our last conversation, I told him that I was not in the Likud in order to fight him. Nobody can fight Zionism’s rear-guard war better than he. But it is still a rear-guard war. We can postpone the end, but we cannot prevent it. What can we do? We can no longer claim that we are David against Goliath, when the world sees us as Goliath. Holocaust museum Yad Vashem and the memory of the Holocaust are not enough for the world to justify Israel’s existence. We need vision, not just survival and technology, Arrow missiles against missiles and underground walls against tunnels. We must return the justice of our cause that we lost with Oslo to our hands. Only those who insisted that this is our Land can do so.”
“Not Like Orly Levi”
Feiglin is not satisfied with simply speaking about identity. He aspires to translate the identity issue into a “social statement of liberty in the spirit of the prophets of Israel. The Zehut party boasts a detailed platform not only on diplomatic-security issues, but also on everything that relates to Israeli society. It is a platform that minimizes the burden of the state on the citizen in every possible realm – the citizen can choose the schools to which to send his children, his local police chief, High Court justices, to marry as he pleases and to divorce as he pleases, to smoke cannabis if he wishes, and any or all of the above. This is a great breakthrough. To create a dynamic society with a shared culture, without coercion.”
That is all very nice, but you are far from being elected to the Knesset.
“Not necessarily. There are polls that are purposely not publicized. Galei Tzahal reported that in internal polls conducted in the two major parties, we received 6-7 mandates. Zehut’s message is completely new. Open primaries, a party that is not religious and not secular, a very detailed platform. We are not like Orly Levi, who, when she announces that she is running, people remember her father, David Levi or think that she is a good alternative to Kachlon.”
“Zehut is an unknown. When you begin to explain, you get fantastic results. I don’t know at what level of awareness Zehut will catch the voters come election time. Most of the polls do not include us. And when we are included, it is not with an explanation of who we are. Ultimately people will understand. Zehut will run in the elections. Everyone who threw his vote in the garbage and received the expulsion from Amona and kites in the south, will get a party that will not carry out the policies of the Left.”
If there will be a person who will bring in more votes than you, will you be willing to give up first place in your party?
“I wish. The Knesset is not my cup of tea. I prefer to write books."