Like it or not, the Likudniks are the Nation of Israel. They are the last national element that has not divided into sectors. The average Likudnik is the most authentic representative of the Israeli public that is still connected to its Jewish identity. He is not the Right branch, the Left branch or the Orthodox branch; the Likudnik is the trunk of the tree. They are the Nation of Israel. Nobody has ever come to the Likudniks - to the Nation of Israel - and said, "You are part of a great truth; you are the descendants of the wondrous Nation of Prophets; your very existence is a historical miracle that points to a superhuman power that watches over you from above; do not fear - just be yourselves, and the God of Israel will pave the way for you throughout the twists and turns of history and will guard you from evil."
Likud court allows Feiglin to run
No leadership has ever spoken that language to the average Likudnik. The only option left to him has been to trust in illusions of "peace" or "international legitimacy." So if Israel's PM gets a "commitment" from the American president - who is here today and gone tomorrow - the poor Likudnik may wholeheartedly adopt it. For him, it is either God or Bush.
And Bush in the only option on the screen.
The Jewish national roots of Likudniks, though, are stronger than they seem. Even without belief-based leadership, Likudniks have remained loyal in the most basic way to the Land of Israel and their Jewish identity. In fact, the majority of Israel's public tends to lean in the traditional, nationalist direction.
Why then, has the Right consistently contracted?
The accepted approach is that in order to win elections, the Right must always gravitate toward the voters of the center. According to this theory, the more the Right dons the mask of "left-lite," the more votes it will gain.
Reality, though, shows just the opposite. When the Right retains its traditional positions, it wins more mandates than the Left. As soon as it begins to lean leftward, it loses votes.
IN 1981 the Likud had 48 Knesset mandates - exactly four times what it has today. But then, prime minister Menachem Begin decided to fulfill the policies of the Left. The destruction of Yamit and retreat from Sinai decreased the Likud's popularity to 41 mandates in the elections of 1984, bringing Labor to power with 44 mandates. In 1988 the Likud won the elections with 40 mandates, but prime minister Yitzhak Shamir - under pressure from the Left - went to the Madrid Conference and began indirect talks with the PLO.
The left turn, however, did not translate into votes. On the contrary - in the elections of 1992 Shamir lost to the Labor's Yitzhak Rabin.
In 1996 Binyamin Netanyahu defeated Shimon Peres. The public expected Netanyahu to eradicate the Oslo blunder. But instead, he warmly shook Yasser Arafat's hand, signed the Wye Accords and perpetuated Oslo. This time, the sharp turn left dashed the Likud, leaving it with only 19 mandates in 1999.
The Arab uprising of 2000 left Ehud Barak and Labor with only 19 mandates in the 2003 elections, as the Likud returned to rule with 38 mandates. But prime minister Ariel Sharon, elected to defeat the enemy, made a total about-face and destroyed Gush Katif. The public despaired of any nationalist alternative to the Left's ideology and the Likud shrunk to an unprecedented 12 mandates in 2005.
SO WHY is Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership) in the Likud? We are in the Likud because we believe in the Nation of Israel. We believe that the people of Israel - most authentically represented by the Likud - instinctively love their Jewish heritage and identity.
We believe that if given a true, Jewish alternative, they will adopt it and cling to it. Israel's current leadership - both "Right" and Left - has disengaged from its Jewish identity and its belief in the justice of its cause.
But the people of Israel have not disengaged. On August 14, Manhigut Yehudit will be offering Likudniks - and the entire Nation of Israel - the opportunity to return to their authentic identity and values.
We are offering them the opportunity to return to themselves. The question is not whether this age-old/revolutionary concept will triumph. It is only a question of when.
The writer heads the Manhigut Yehudit faction in the Likud.