Moshe Feiglin 248.88.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozlimski)
Should the modern Orthodox public support Likud leader Binyamin Netanyahu from inside or outside the party in next week's elections?
That was the question at the top of the agenda Tuesday night during a debate for the national-religious public that put Moshe Feiglin, an ultra-nationalist who is No. 36 on the Likud list, against the new chairman of the National Union, Yaakov Katz, and the chairman of Habayit Hayehudi, Prof. Rabbi Daniel Hershkovitz.
During the debate at Jerusalem's Great Synagogue, Feiglin repeatedly stressed that the only place to effectively shape policy was within the Likud.
"By voting for me, you are voting for those who can guard Netanyahu from within [from doing things we don't want] and not be irrelevant from outside," Feiglin said. "Only through the Likud can we lead the entire State of Israel."
For their part, the religious leaders from the two right-wing parties, who failed in their attempt to forge a joint list, said the Likud was not to be trusted, and that only they would safeguard Israel from further withdrawals from the West Bank.
"Only with us we will be sure that there is no Palestinian state, no [more] disengagement," Katz said. "Only with us will we be sure that Feiglin is not in the 36th seat, but in the first, second and third."
"Every two or three years, the Likud spits in our face," Hershkovitz said. "They use us like disposable dishes."
Feiglin said that both the National Union and Habayit Hayehudi were narrow sectoral parties which failed to attract a wide swath of the population, and that a vote for the Likud would ensure that both he and fellow right-wingers placed low on the Likud list would get into the Knesset.
After the right-wing organizers of the debate - which will be broadcast around the world on the program Tuesday Night Live in Jerusalem - showed a news clip with members of the Likud joining Kadima and the Left in voting for Ariel Sharon's 2005 Gaza pullout, Feiglin was pressed with what was billed as "the hardest question of the evening" - why should religious rightists vote for the Likud?
"We all remember where the real political battle with the Sharon and the disengagement was," Feiglin responded. "Was it within the National Union or the National Religious Party? All the political fights were inside the Likud."
After a half-hour of debate, it was clear that all three participants basically shared the same goals, and that the only difference between them was how to achieve them.
"We have the same values, the same goals," Hershkovitz concurred, conceding that he had "no answer" on why his party and the National Union split.
Public opinion polls have shown that the National Union will get between four and six Knesset seats, while the newly-formed Habayit Hayehudi is hovering between two to three seats.
In the last elections, the National Union-National Religious Party, running on a joint list, garnered nine Knesset seats.
Leaders of both parties suggested at the event that they hoped to reunite after the elections, and expressed regret that the parties' failed in their goal to unite the national-religious camp before the vote.
Avigdor Lieberman's right-wing Israel Beiteinu Party, which is polling right behind the Likud and Kadima and is in a dead heat with Labor for third place, according to the latest polls, was not represented at the debate.