The Right Must Unite

February 10, 2019

4 min read

Michael Freund

With elections barely two months away, the greatest challenge facing Israel’s Right emanates neither from the Center nor the Left, but, rather, from within.

Indeed, if recent polls are accurate, several small parties on the Right, most of which may not individually pass the minimum threshold to make it into the next Knesset, could nonetheless win a combined total of 10 to 12 seats, all of which would end up in the dustbin if they fail to run together.

If steps are not taken to prevent this, the outcome could very well be a center-left coalition that strives to return Israel to the dark days of Oslo through dangerous concessions to the Palestinians.

It is therefore imperative that pressure be brought to bear on the right-wing parties to put aside their differences and their egos and to coalesce into a united front. Nothing less than the future of the country is at stake.

To a certain degree, the plethora of parties on the Right can be seen as a sign of intellectual and ideological vigor. Moshe Feiglin’s Zehut Party, which held the first open primaries in Israeli history, offers voters a fresh blend of libertarianism, Zionist pride and privatization, although it does support the legalization of cannabis, which is a highly contentious issue. While one survey last week showed the party earning enough votes to enter the Knesset, most show it falling short.

Then there is Yahad, headed by former Shas head Eli Yishai, which appeals largely to Sephardi haredim with a right-wing bent on territorial issues. In the previous elections, when Yahad ran together with Baruch Marzel’s Otzma Yehudit, they did not pass the minimum electoral threshold, and the three-and-and-a-half seats they won went down the drain.

Currently, Yahad and Otzma Yehudit have yet to join forces, and polls show the former winning one seat with the latter garnering possibly two or three, which is not enough to make it into the next Knesset.

Then there is the Bayit Yehudi, which suffered a major blow when party leaders Nafatali Bennett and Ayelet Shaked broke away to form the New Right. Bayit Yehudi, which just elected former IDF chief Rabbi Rafi Peretz as its new chairman, is also hovering at or below the electoral threshold, as is Avigdor Liberman’s Yisrael Beytenu and Arye Deri’s Shas Party.

The National Union, which has championed Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria and is now headed by Bezalel Smotrich, ran together with the Bayit Yehudi in the outgoing Knesset, but the two factions have yet to indicate formally whether they will do so again in the April 9 balloting.

Needless to say, it would be naive to think that the matter of ego is not at work amid this dizzying array of parties, which also explains why the Right is so splintered.

But the main problem is that while it is healthy for public discourse when the marketplace of ideas on the Right is robust, the realities of electoral politics leave little room for such division. After all, there is plenty of room outside the Knesset to debate the finer points of right-wing ideology, but within the chambers of Israel’s parliament there is a finite number of seats.

IT IS precisely the concern that many right-wing votes may end up being wasted that led Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu to issue a statement “calling on Bayit Yehudi to work toward uniting with the National Union and Otzma Yehudit, so that the right-wing bloc will not lose seats.” The failure to do so, he warned, “could result in the formation of a leftist government.”

Netanyahu is absolutely correct on this point. Were the various factions on the Right to unite, it would almost guarantee that the next government will be one that is faithful to the Land of Israel. The Left is in complete disarray, with both Labor and Meretz sinking in the polls, as the center parties led by Benny Gantz and Yair Lapid have siphoned off disgruntled voters.

Even with the threat of an indictment hovering over him, Netanyahu is well positioned to form the next governing coalition, if the parties to the right of the Likud can get their act together, both literally and figuratively. A joint list consisting of Bayit Yehudi, the National Union, Otzma Yehudit and Yahad could easily add seven to eight seats to the Right’s representation in parliament, which would give Netanyahu the numbers needed to form a solid and stable right-wing coalition.

Given the challenges that the country faces, amid mounting tensions in Gaza, chilling threats from Tehran and Hezbollah’s formal entry into Lebanon’s government, it is essential that the next Israeli government have the backbone to defend the nation’s interests.

The Hebrew word for a political party, “miflaga,” comes from the root “lefaleg,” which means “to divide.” It is time for the Right to overcome this inherently destructive trait of modern-day politics and come together for the sake of us all.

Simply put, the future of the Land of Israel is at stake. All the rest is commentary.

Reprinted with author’s permission from The Jerusalem Post

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