Why I left the Likud and am staying away - comment

I’m ashamed for the Likud. I hope there’s some level of shame left among the adults still in the room.

 MK MIRI REGEV: The Likud will have ‘no stomachaches [when voting against] soldiers or battered women or cases of rape.’ (photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)
MK MIRI REGEV: The Likud will have ‘no stomachaches [when voting against] soldiers or battered women or cases of rape.’
(photo credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/FLASH90)

There are few things that unite all, or most Israelis, and few if any that unite us more than support for our soldiers. Last week, a law passed to provide 75% scholarships to soldiers.

One would think that it would have passed by a wide plurality, across the parties in the government and the opposition. Sadly, that was not the case, and even a law that ought to be supported by the overwhelming majority of Israelis became a cause of political divisiveness. 

The vote on the law took place just a year after Israel voted in its fourth national election in just over two years.

Last year, I voted for a party other than the Likud for only the second time since I made aliyah. Ideologically, for many reasons, Likud makes sense and is a comfortable political home. In addition, I believed in the preceding elections that for many reasons, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi, was the best choice to lead the country. 

However, a year ago it became clear to me that despite all his strengths and accomplishments, which I do not diminish, Bibi was playing us. Whether just to hang on to his political career, to avoid prosecution, to undermine others, or any combination of these and other reasons, Bibi refused to bring a budget to a vote, unimaginably dragging Israel into two years without a state budget. Doing so, he also broke his coalition agreement, automatically triggering new elections.

Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, May 31, 2022.  (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)Opposition head Benjamin Netanyahu at the Knesset, May 31, 2022. (credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

I still admire and respect Bibi for all he’s accomplished, but was no longer prepared to vote for the Likud under his leadership. If there were an expiration date on him like a container of milk, he went sour long ago

Bibi problems

While the current government is not one I would have chosen to put together, I’m glad he’s no longer prime minister. I wish the Likud would replace Bibi and let others rise into leadership, particularly those whom he’s stifled and pushed aside for years. Not coincidentally, among those remaining, who haven’t bolted to establish their own parties, are some of the best and brightest whom he deems competition, as opposed to those offering their blind support. 

Despite not loving the current government for many reasons, Bibi and the Likud (along with much of the opposition, which sadly and reflexively lines up with Bibi) have not given me any reason to regret my vote a year ago. The opposition should be about competing ideas and, yes, trying to win support of the public. This opposition under Bibi’s leadership is void of ideas and seems to seek only to undermine the sitting government, despite what may be good for Israel. 

The recent Knesset law to provide scholarships for soldiers is a perfect example. It passed, but not without gross antics from the Likud. The shameful thing is that this is a law that could (and maybe should) very well have been enacted during the 12 years that Bibi was prime minister. Every Likud member should have reflexively supported it. It never should have been a political vote, and for sure never should have been a vote about embarrassing or bringing down the government. 

Rather than outright supporting the law, or bringing the bill to a vote itself, the Likud blamed the government for not providing a 100% scholarship because it was providing money to projects of the Arab Ra’am Party. This was disingenuous and divisive at best because the Likud was prepared to make a deal to have Ra’am join a coalition under its authority, and probably would have had to agree to no less funding of projects for the Arab community than the sitting government. 

After the law passed, recordings leaked of Likud members plotting to undermine the government through this vote. That’s shameful. They actually articulated that they would rather use the soldiers (and rape victims) as pawns to bring down the government, rather than to vote for a law that is and ought to be a national priority. 

Miri Regev, one of Bibi’s lapdog Likud “leaders,” was heard saying: “We decided as a party that we’re going to be a fighting opposition and that we want to bring down this government. So there are no stomachaches [when voting against] soldiers or battered women or cases of rape because we all understand that this is the rationale.”

“We decided as a party that we’re going to be a fighting opposition and that we want to bring down this government. So there are no stomachaches [when voting against] soldiers or battered women or cases of rape because we all understand that this is the rationale.”

Likud MK Miri Regev

Yuval Steinitz added that supporting this bill to benefit combat veterans would risk leading to cooperation with the government on other bills, God forbid, aiding “widows, orphans, the periphery, a million and one disabled people, the sick, the elderly, and Holocaust survivors.”

In short, Steinitz argued to sell out the needs of many of Israel’s most disadvantaged simply to discredit the government. Such thinking may not be treasonous in the legal sense, but sure sounds like it is against Israel’s most needy. 

I have always found Regev to be vapid. In the previous government (which fell because of Bibi’s blocking bringing a budget to a vote), that she, as one of the most undiplomatic Knesset members, was set to become foreign minister made a mockery of the Likud’s internal selection process. Last week’s revelations have just strengthened my decision a year ago to bolt the Likud.

I’M NOT saying I am gone for good, and in a democratic party (one of the few that actually has internal primaries sometimes), there will be people elected whom I like and respect more than others. I can live with that. But I no longer want to support a party whose head and puppets play politics so much that it’s transparent that their interests are other than the well-being of the state. 

Maybe I’m naive. That’s not the worst thing I have been called. I can live with that, too. But the party of Bibi and Miri is not one I can support. I pray that sound heads in the Likud will make a change and give me reason to have confidence in voting for it again, someday. Until then, I’ll pray that we’ll be on a path of competing ideas, not using our soldiers as pawns, or blaming the sitting government for deals and alliances that the Likud would have made just as easily. 

When I used to vote Likud, I used an election slip with the Hebrew letters spelling “Mahal” to cast my ballot. Coincidentally, these letters are the root of the word “mehila” (forgiveness). Rather than asking us to vote for them, the Likud should be asking for our forgiveness. 

I’m ashamed for the Likud. I hope there’s some level of shame left among the adults still in the room. ■

The writer is president of the Genesis 123 Foundation and RunforZion.com, building bridges between Jews and Christians. He can be reached at [email protected]