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Currently, according to Knesset insiders, between five and 10 of Likud’s 27 lawmakers work or strategize with Feiglin. And his strength is thought to have influenced Netanyahu’s reluctance to give the green light to the evacuation of the illegal outposts Beit El and Migron, which he eventually ordered for this summer, but only under the pressure of a Supreme Court ruling. Feiglin’s influence was also seen in Netanyahu’s decision to approve large new building projects in the settlements.
But Feiglin’s ambitions go far beyond preventing settlement freezes. He wants to change entirely the way that his party and his country make decisions and present themselves to the world.
Among other things, Feiglin wants to completely end foreign aid to Israel. Accepting it, he says, leaves Israel beholden to other countries, especially America, and constitutes an “immoral act.” He believes that if Israel uses Jewish heritage rather than democratic values to determine and justify its policy in the West Bank and Gaza, the world will accept it. He also advocates encouraging the Palestinians in the West Bank, as well as the Arabs who are citizens of Israel, to emigrate, using financial inducements. He doesn’t propose revoking citizenship of Israeli Arabs, but says that only Jews should be eligible to receive Israeli citizenship in the future.
“What counts is where we stand ourselves,” he said. “The world knows exactly what Israel is about, what it represents and what it’s supposed to represent. What we are running away from is what we represent when we’re saying, ‘I’m not a Jew, I’m a liberal, I’m just another Anglo-European-American country, a Hebrew liberal whatever.’”
During its four decades of existence, the Likud party, inspired by the right-wing ideology of Zionist thinker Ze’ev Jabotinsky, has promoted settlements and has often been seen as hard-line and even ethnocentric. But it has never been theocentric.
Feiglin is changing that. “If you don’t believe in God there is no reality,” he said. And for him, the political importance of this is clear. “The basic belief of the left is, there is no God and therefore there is no truth.”
Arye Naor, Cabinet secretary to Menachem Begin during the latter’s premiership and an emeritus professor at Ben-Gurion University, where he researched the Israeli right, is unnerved by the influence of this kind of ideology in the Likud. “The theological element and ethnic extremism just isn’t Likud,” he said.
An adviser to Netanyahu, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said, “The prime minister believes strongly that Likud is a national and a liberal political movement, and we believe that there are some members who have joined who are not natural members of this movement.”