Moshe Feiglin (b. Haifa '62) is an Israeli politician on the rise. Elected as a member of the Knesset only in January 2013, today he already serves as deputy speaker of the Knesset. In May, a poll listed him as the fourth most popular member of Likud.
Over the past two weeks Israel has bombed 3,209 targets in Gaza, has killed 856 Palestinians (mostly civilians), wounded in excess of 4,000, destroyed hospitals and other infrastructure, and lost 38 Israelis in the process (NYT's tally). The onslaught lights up the sky to outer space.
|Astronaut Alexander Gerst Reported Seeing Bombing Against the Night Lights of Israel/Palestine|
Feiglin is a deeply religious person. All of his education, it would appear, has been religious. David Remnick interviewed him for his New Yorker profile, The Party Faithful, published in January 2013, right before his entry into the Knesset. Feiglin had just attended the Third Conference for the Application of Israeli Sovereignty over Judea and Samaria (aka the West Bank). Many members of Knesset were in attendance, "including Likud’s Ze’ev Elkin, who declared that it was time for Israel to 'stop conceding and go on the offensive, step by step.' All the speeches favored some form of annexation; the question was how much and how soon," says Remnick. Feiglin advocated for Israel to pay Palestinians to leave: "Why not spend ... money ... and permanently rid yourself of the problem?"
Here is the video summary of this conference:
If you look at the size and quality of this production, the attendees, their fervor, and consider the outsize influence that this highly organized sector of society wields at the polls, it's impossible to conclude that Israel will be able to negotiate a two-state solution any time soon, even if it had a government that wanted one, which it does not. "Since the victory of the Six Day War, there's been a political vacuum in Judea and Samaria," says Yehudit Katzover, co-founder of the conference:
"This vacuum sends a message of uncertainty regarding our right to the land of Israel. It awakes hopes among the Arabs and ignites intifadas, and invites pressure on Israel to make concessions.... But there's light at the end of the tunnel.... Since 1967, since the liberation of our heartland, we've come a long way in creating facts on the ground, and thank G-d, we have 400,000 Jews living today in Judea and Samaria in 250 flourishing communities, with more to come. The second light we see, is the people don't want concessions. The understanding that concessions in the South brought us Hamas, Grad rockets, Katyushas, has reshuffled the deck and people don't want two states.And who will say she's wrong?
In 1993, Feiglin helped found Zo Artzeinu (This Is Our Land), a coalition of religious Zionists who, according to Remnick, "considered the Oslo Accord a violation of Jewish law and political sense." Feiglin acted as a community activist against the Yitzhak Rabin government. But, says Remnick, "by the late nineties, Feiglin decided that he could exert more influence through conventional political struggle. For him, Netanyahu, who became Prime Minister in 1996, was too soft, too given to territorial compromise. He organized a Likud faction called Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership)."
[Quoting Feiglin] “What happens on the left shows total ideological confusion, a loss of vision. The concept of Oslo has disappeared. On the right, what is fascinating is between Likud and Naftali Bennett. With all modesty, I am behind it. Since Oslo, since Zo Artzeinu, we developed a concept of what the right should do—put a different agenda on the Israeli field and create a new layer of leadership that, instead of coming from the leftist avant-garde, comes from the right avant-garde.”
In Feiglin’s view, secular Zionism tried to gain a measure of acceptance from its neighbors and the world community by relinquishing land. “The concept we’ve started to develop is that the answer is not with the neighbors—it’s with us,” he said. “We are not like all other nations. The Jews are different. Our goal should be to develop our special culture based on the Torah and the Prophets as a message and a symbol to the family of nations, to all of entire humanity.”....
...Finally, I asked Feiglin about his latest thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian question. When I said “Palestinian,” it was as if I had uttered a revolting oath. “ ‘Palestinians’?” he said. “Orwell wrote his book ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ and there is talk there about ‘Newspeak,’ the ‘Big Lie.’ ” The Big Lie, I was to understand, was the very idea of a Palestinian people. “Do you know about a nation without a history?” he said. “How can a nation exist without history? They are Arabs. They identify with a big Arab nation, and there are many Arab tribes. Every Israeli understands that if, God forbid, Israel disappeared there would not be one Palestinian in the world, because the Palestinians’ self-definition isn’t for a Palestinian state but for war with the Jews. . . . The P.L.O. was established before 1967, and they never tried to create a Palestinian state in the territories when they had them. Their desire will always be to seize any territory last held by a Jew. There was never in history a group that longed to create a state that got more recognition and help from everyone, including us, and yet it is not happening. It just is not.”And two days ago, on July 25, 2014, Feiglin shared his view of a solution for Gaza in the Jewish Press. His vision entails driving Palestinians into the Sinai desert and populating the Gaza strip with Jews as part of Greater Israel. It is difficult to quarrel with his sense of brevity and directness:
Ultimatum – One warning from the Prime Minister of Israel to the enemy population, in which he announces that Israel is about to attack military targets in their area and urges those who are not involved and do not wish to be harmed to leave immediately. Sinai is not far from Gaza and they can leave. This will be the limit of Israel’s humanitarian efforts. Hamas may unconditionally surrender and prevent the attack.
Attack – Attack the entire ‘target bank’ throughout Gaza with the IDF’s maximum force (and not a tiny fraction of it) with all the conventional means at its disposal. All the military and infrastructural targets will be attacked with no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’. It is enough that we are hitting exact targets and that we gave them advance warning.
Siege – Parallel to the above, a total siege on Gaza. Nothing will enter the area. Israel, however, will allow exit from Gaza. (Civilians may go to Sinai, fighters may surrender to IDF forces).
Defense – Any place from which Israel or Israel’s forces were attacked will be immediately attacked with full force and no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’.
Conquer – After the IDF completes the "softening" of the targets with its fire-power, the IDF will conquer the entire Gaza, using all the means necessary to minimize any harm to our soldiers, with no other considerations.
Elimination- The GSS and IDF will thoroughly eliminate all armed enemies from Gaza. The enemy population that is innocent of wrong-doing and separated itself from the armed terrorists will be treated in accordance with international law and will be allowed to leave. Israel will generously aid those who wish to leave.
Sovereignty – Gaza is part of our Land and we will remain there forever. Liberation of parts of our land forever is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land. Subsequent to the elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. This will also serve to ease the housing crisis in Israel. The coastal train line will be extended, as soon as possible, to reach the entire length of Gaza.
According to polls, most of the Arabs in Gaza wish to leave. Those who were not involved in anti-Israel activity will be offered a generous international emigration package. Those who choose to remain will receive permanent resident status. After a number of years of living in Israel and becoming accustomed to it, contingent on appropriate legislation in the Knesset and the authorization of the Minister of Interior, those who personally accept upon themselves Israel’s rule, substance and way of life of the Jewish State in its Land, will be offered Israeli citizenship.Liberation of our land "is the only thing that justifies endangering our soldiers in battle to capture land" says Feiglin. After elimination of terror from Gaza, it will become part of sovereign Israel and will be populated by Jews. Gazans will be forced into the Sinai to wander in the wilderness. That's the language of Feiglin in the Jewish Press. Does this ravaging of Gaza make sense in any other terms?
Set aside whether Israel had a right to defend itself from the ineffectual Hamas rockets by bombing innocent civilians; set aside whether Israel has the right to block off tunnels in order to tighten its siege. Does it make sense to sacrifice 38 Israelis, and to bomb densely populated civilian areas for three weeks, 24 hours a day, to gain three or five years of "quiet" from pesky, but ineffectual rockets. Not peace, but quiet. Feiglin doesn't think so, and in that, surely, he is right. This operation makes no sense unless you are held captive to Feiglin's Siren song of Gaza.
Experts do not speak of this. What is Israel's end game strategy, asks CNN of its experts. "There is none" they dutifully agree. Israel has depleted the Hamas arsenal, for now; this operation won't change anything for the long term; Israel will tighten its siege by blocking tunnels.... that's it. Yet, through it all, Feiglin's Siren song is heard, even as Israel's leadership is lashed to the mast, unable to fully follow its call of "elimination" and "sovereignty."
Note that Feiglin's prescriptions of "ultimatum", "attack", "siege" and "defense" has been expertly implemented by Israel since 2005. Israel has also "Conquered" Gaza twice: in operation Cast Lead (2008-2009) and during the current operation. Feiglin, of course, will not get his wish of "elimination" and "sovereignty" this time round. A temporary cease-fire takes effect this morning; the international community will pressure the parties into a longer stand down soon. Israel will reassert its siege. Tunnels will be closed off. Fewer materials will get through, for a while. Tunnels will be rebuilt. Feiglin's prescription for "Defense" will be resumed.
When Remnick asked Feiglin about some of the provocative things he has said about Arabs, Feiglin answered: "I did make some mistakes along the way--not with the words, but with the melody." Peace won't be achieved until Israel stops hearing that melody.
[UPDATE: Jewishpress.com revised Feiglin’s piece on July 27, 2014. Some of the rhetoric has been softened. No explanation is given but some of the changes highlight that Feiglin is not speaking for the government (e.g. “will” is changed to “should in several instances”). Under “Ultimatum” “Sinai is not far from Gaza and they can leave” has been toned down (?) to “They should consider heading to Sinai, which is not far from Gaza.” Under “Attack” “conventional means” is now up front to emphasize he is not talking about dropping a nuclear bomb on Gaza. Glad to hear it. “Siege” has been reworded: it is time for total military siege, but Israel “will allow exit from Gaza.” Under “Defense” the reference to “no consideration for ‘human shields’ or ‘environmental damage’ is dropped. “Conquor” has changed “will” to “should” and the order of words has been rearranged. Under “Elimination” “will” has been changed to “should.” Under “Sovereignty” “part of Israel” has been changed to “parts of our land” and the order of words has been rearranged. The entry here reflects the July 25 version]