By finally being allowed to take his place in the Knesset as a member of the ruling Likud Party, Moshe Feiglin is considered by some to have arrived. But that may only be the way it looks from the outside. From the inside, and by his own estimation, the struggle and the work have only just begun.
Likud MK Moshe Feiglin was in New York the other day to meet with friends and supporters who have stood with him and provided him and his movement–Manhigut Yehudit–with the resources and the motivation to endure the difficult political struggle that has lasted more than 20 years.
Feiglin is number 14 in the new Likud/Beiteinu Party that is led by Benjamin Netanyahu who is currently trying to stitch together a governing coalition so that those elected can finally get down to the business of running the country instead of running in circles around one another.
About the process, Feiglin told his audience that in Israel the philosophy they seem to live by is basically “why make it simple and uncomplicated when you can make it difficult?” The process of forming a new government seems to be taking two steps backward for every step the parties take forward.
If there is anyone in the new Knesset that hears the beat of a different drum, it is this man, Moshe Feiglin. He presents his positions and arguments in calm and measured tones. He is not a classic orator and is far from the description applied to him by his critics as being intolerant or anti-Arab in any way. To believe that Feiglin is any of those things is simply not to know him.
The best way to describe Feiglin is as a sincere individual filled with conviction. His thought process may be considered complex, particularly when he speaks about his view of religion in Israel. He says he is opposed to the idea of what we refer to as religious parties in government. He doesn’t like it because, he explains, that takes the depth and the richness of what it means to be a Torah Jew and wraps it up in a little package that can be easily defined and rejected by an overwhelming number of Israelis. He feels that those who have the ability to lead should not do so from small political parties on the sidelines but rather endeavor to do what he has committed himself to do–join the mainstream and effectuate change from within.
He does not consider himself to be a theocrat, though some on the outside might disagree. He believes that for Jews in the Jewish state there is just one straight way and that means giving oneself over to a deep and abiding faith in G-d. He says that by simply subscribing to a book of do’s and don’ts we tend to marginalize the truth of the nationalistic connection to the land of Israel.
And that is perhaps one of the reasons that the only new Likud MK believes that the policy adopted regarding the Temple Mount is wrong. “Har HaBayit is the heart of Am Yisrael,” Feiglin said. He added that you know what happens when an individual has an unhealthy or weak heart.
Moshe Feiglin said that he makes a point of visiting the Temple Mount at least once every month. When an audience member quizzed him about the halachic permissibility of visiting the site where the Beis HaMikdash stood, Moshe said that, yes, it is true that many Gedolei Torah advise against frequenting Har Habayit but, at the same time, there are quite a number of Torah luminaries who permit it and he subscribes to that direction or thought on the matter.
As you probably know, Moshe Feiglin burst onto the scene in the aftermath of the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993. He saw the agreements hammered out with arch Palestinian terrorist leader Yasser Arafat by then-Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres as a colossal sellout of the Jewish people to the cause of currying favor and political expediency.
Feiglin and his neighbor in the Shomron, Shmuel Sackett, organized massive nationwide civil disobedience demonstrations, tying up traffic and paralyzing the country as a way of bringing attention to what they saw as the systematic destruction of the State of Israel. Both Feiglin and Sackett were arrested and convicted of moral turpitude and indeed spent a time in Israeli jails.
Feiglin says that over all these years there is a lot that has changed about him. He says that he feels he sees the big picture, the need to convey the ability of having faith in G-d and using that faith to fortify and secure Eretz Yisrael which is besieged by enemies, both political and otherwise.
What has made Feiglin different even from his mentor, the late Rabbi Meir Kahane, is that Moshe says that the change and thinking he wants to bring to Israel has to come from within the establishment and not from some outside source or agent. And that is why he took the bold step years ago of joining the Likud, crafting a new message and working diligently to garner support and popularity.
As Feiglin progressed and advanced through the ranks, Likud leadership again and again set traps and orchestrated political setbacks for him. Just a few years ago, after the last election when he seemed to qualify for a Knesset seat, Netanyahu unilaterally manipulated party rules and pushed Moshe back in line, which disqualified him for taking a much-deserved seat.
Oddly enough, this time around and after all these years of working and plotting patiently, something drastic changed. He may not have liked it, but now Netanyahu needed Feiglin. Perhaps he only needed him more for window dressing than effecting policy, but he needed him nevertheless. The more right-leaning candidates for seats in the Knesset–specifically the religious right-leaning Naftali Bennett and Bayit HaYehudi–were on the ascent in multiple sectors of the electorate, both religious and not. And that is where Feiglin may have come into the picture for Bibi.
But, as stated above, Feiglin does not care for religious parties whether they are Shas, UTH, or Bayit. He says they do an injustice to Israel in general. “Naftali Bennett is a friend of mine and I like him,” Moshe says. He adds that he believes that the entire Bayit HaYehudi message was created and is based on the philosophies that he, Feiglin, developed and poured into Manhigut Yehudi–Jewish Leadership.
As Feiglin has been saying all along, despite his seat in the Knesset, his goal is to be prime minister of Israel. He doesn’t want this position for his own aggrandizement or personal political ambition. If you are thinking that then you are way off base. His underlying theme is that G-d gives the land of Israel to the Jewish people. Politics and political parties exist, he says, to build a wedge between Jews and Israelis and that is Israel’s greatest weakness.
When asked how he feels when he passes Arab members of Knesset in the hallways of government buildings, he says that while he doesn’t greet them, he finds their presence rather humorous on some level. He explains that modern Israel has made a deliberate attempt to strip away Jewish identity from the people and to create a new entity called an Israeli. Rabbi Meir Kahane used to characterize the Israel of the modern era as wanting to be “a Hebrew-speaking Portugal.”
Feiglin believes that the Arab parties in the Knesset play a vital role. “By them insisting on their Palestinian identity, they leave many of us to reluctantly embrace our identity as Jews,” he says. Modern Israel had hoped to mesh and assimilate Jews and Arabs in Israel into an entity known as Israelis. That, thankfully, didn’t work, he says.
On the matter of the upcoming visit of President Obama to Israel and expectations that the president will address the Knesset, Moshe says, “If the president arrives in Israel without Jonathan Pollard, then he will speak to Moshe’s empty seat in the Knesset.” He says that he hopes that his seat will not be the only one vacated in protest and that the protest will not be necessary.
On a personal level, Feiglin has his struggles and challenges that include his wife, Tzipi, dealing with Parkinson’s, and one of his sons slowly recovering from injuries suffered in an awful car wreck a few years ago. The junior Feiglin was in a coma for months, and for a very long time his life hung in the balance. It is arguable that these challenges and difficulties have shaped and molded the Moshe Feiglin we know today. He truly embodies the hope of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael and is a lone voice whose volume is thankfully increasing. v
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