Analysis: When too Right is not right for the Right

Diagnosis that Likud's list is hawkish is actually an understatement.

feiglin looks up 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
feiglin looks up 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
There aren't too many things that anger the average right-winger in Israel more than seeing an Associated Press story with the modifier "hard-line" surgically attached to the word Likud, as it is according to official AP style. Many complained when they saw those words combined while a Likud-led government withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip. But times have changed, and since the party elected its Knesset slate on Monday, it will be harder to argue against that combination for the foreseeable future. The computer glitches that were the focus of coverage of the primary in Tuesday's newspapers were already old news by the time the papers hit their readers' doorsteps. Instead, the coverage shifted to how right-wing the Likud's list was. As evidence, the media pointed to the election of activist Moshe Feiglin to a realistic slot on the list, the placement of hawks Gideon Sa'ar, Gilad Erdan, Reuven Rivlin and Bennie Begin in the party's top five, the return of former Likud rebels Michael Ratzon, Ayoub Kara and Ehud Yatom, and the poor showing of doves Dan Meridor, Asaf Hefetz and Uzi Dayan. But while the media are often criticized for exaggerating how hawkish the Likud is, in this case, that diagnosis is actually understated, because it is based only on the reputations of the well-known candidates who were elected. When it becomes clear who the unknown candidates slated to serve on the Likud's backbenches are, the party's attempts to bill itself as centrist will suffer a further blow. Meet World Likud chairman Danny Danon, who ran against Binyamin Netanyahu for Likud leader two years ago and defeated Netanyahu-backed basketball star Tal Brody for the 26th slot on the list. His English Web site boasts that "Danny has dedicated his life to securing the future of Israel by leading the campaign to keep all parts of biblical Israel." The Web site outlines a diplomatic plan calling for Israel to immediately cease talks on the establishment of a Palestinian state, annex the entire West Bank, and work together with neighboring countries to create a joint compensation program for West Bank Arabs who choose to relocate, while confederating the rest of them with Jordan. Meet Yariv Levin, who coordinated the struggle in the Likud against then-prime minister Ariel Sharon's referendum on withdrawing from Gaza, which ultimately convinced Sharon to form Kadima. He is now high up at No. 22 on the list. Meet Boaz Haetzni, the son of former Tehiya MK Elyakim Haetzni and a resident of Kiryat Arba, who is No. 36 on the list. He is one of the founders of the Homesh First organization, which aims to return Jews to the evacuated settlements in northern Samaria as a first step toward returning to Gaza. Feiglin endorsed candidates who he said would most likely be loyal to the Land, people and Torah of Israel, and he succeeded in getting them elected. Out of the top 36 candidates, 19 were endorsed by Feiglin's Jewish Leadership movement. But perhaps Feiglin succeeded too well for his own good and the good of the Land of Israel he aims to defend. The right-wing image that he and his victorious candidates have given the Likud could scare back to Kadima centrist voters who would have voted Likud had Dayan been on the list in place of Yatom and if Meridor were in the top 10. By preventing Hefetz's election, Feiglin might have elected to the Knesset a Kadima dove like former Shinui MK Eti Livni or peace activist Galia Albin. With such a hawkish Knesset slate, it will also be harder for Netanyahu to form a stable coalition that could last and to build the centrist image that he needs to withstand international pressure for concessions to the Palestinians. So Feiglin indeed succeeded in ensuring that the Likud faction would be Right, but there is no guarantee that this was right for the Right.